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Praise Jehovah? Squadron ‘no housing’ plan appears to move forward

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Could the Jehovah’s Witnesses save the soul of Brooklyn Bridge Park?

A scaled-down proposal to avoid building luxury housing inside the waterfront park-development moved forward last night after city officials apparently dropped their longstanding objection to collecting some tax revenue from slome properties — including 30-odd tax-exempt buildings owned by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society — near the big green amenity.

The park’s Committee on Alternatives to Housing — which is seeking ways to generate the $16-million annual maintenance budget for the $350-million park — voted unanimously consider using tax revenue that would be generated after the Jehovah’s Witness-owned buildings are sold and rezoned for residential use.

“I’ve always said there must be alternatives to housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and today’s vote brings a non-housing funding plan one step closer to reality,” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), who has been pushing the tax-revenue plan, which city officials had long rejected because it would siphon off some revenue from city coffers.

The vote is something of a game changer: if the Watchtower properties do go on the market in time, they could replenish the maintenance budget by greatly increasing the number of residents paying fees towards park maintenance. Currently, only residents of the One Brooklyn Bridge Park residential building are doing so.

Until the Witnesses sell, other alternatives are being considered, including:

• Refill the maintenance budget through some sort of advertising or sponsorship scheme.

• Create a business or park “improvement district” that would charge nearby businesses an annual maintenance fee, though those fees would likely be passed on to tenants or customers.

• Build and charge for one or more of the following: event and venue facilities, a recreational center or additional concessions, such as a restaurant.

• Build a parking structure. Park advocates have long complained about the lack of parking in or near Brooklyn Bridge Park, though it’s unclear how much revenue this facility would generate.

• General fundraising.

The committee has hired Bay Area Economics to draft a report by mid-February.

Updated 11:52 am, December 21, 2010: Story was dramatically updated to reflect a full interpretation of the initially confusing vote.
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Reasonable discourse

Publius says:
Why wait for the Witnesses to sell? If Ratner can misues eminent domain and take private property for a private use, let the state or city take private Witness building for a real public use -- maintenance of a park - pay them fair market value, and let some of those huge tracts of real estate start generating tax revenue for the first time in decades. The Witnesses, as a recognized religion, have not been paying taxes on those properties. Time to change that.
Dec. 21, 2010, 2:52 am
wkrp from brooklyn says:
BB Park's apparatchiks consider their project an economic development — and they're determined to build houses and commercial because they mean more contracts for favored developers.

People should understand that whatever park we're getting is literally an afterthought — the economic development comes first. The ONLY reason high-rises haven't YET risen is the bad market for real-estate; meanwhile, the project's operators finally decided to build park elements for which money was available maybe 10 years ago and which were always an afterthought to the economic development.

If Squadron — who was elected, in part, on his opposition to this the housing and commercial development — is honest, he'll call a spade a spade instead of essentially running cover for those who favor patronage-laiden economic development over parkland for the people.
Dec. 21, 2010, 7:32 am
J from Brooklyn says:
"and the committee isn’t allowed to consider options that involve city funds."

LOL.

i.e. the park isn't allowed to be paid for by taxes. Of course that's exactly what taxes are supposed to be for.

The entire committee is a scam to make it look like other options were considered when of course the option 99 percent of parks use has been removed.

As with everything under the Bloomberg administration, this is a scam.

Here's another option they won't let them consider. Don't build the park! That's right. If funds are so tight in the city then why build the park?

The park is window dressing for real estate development, Bloomberg's numero uno priority. The fix is in. I feel bad for people on this committee as I am sure they would sincerely like to find an alternative to funding the park.

Here's one option that committee members should take. Everyone should resign the committee and denounce the process by which it is allowed to select funding options.
Dec. 21, 2010, 7:41 am
JSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
Bravo J from Brooklyn!
Dec. 21, 2010, 9:01 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
When the Brooklyn Bridge Park was approved, eons ago, the MOU between the City and the State required that the maintenance of the park be paid within the 4 walls of the site. This is also how the park on the Hudson River was approved. The reason for this was at the time the City had no money for additional parks(it didn't have enough money for its then current parks). so the agreement provided that the park needed to be self sustaining. When you take money from the city's budget it comes from somewhere. Fire, Police, Schools and Libraries. So where do you want to take this money from in budget? The agreement said it would come within the park. I don't particularly like the idea of apartments but that is where the money for the Hudson River park comes from- mostly battery park city. The other uses mostly require money-and don't bring much income. Chelsea piers is not a big money maker for the park nor is the cruise lines where the piers cost much more than the cruise lines ever pay.
So far the alternatives that will be explored and for those I personally will have to wait and see but the biggest money maker would be parking. is parking preferred over housing?

and not building the park is the preferred solution of most of the anti-housing people.

BTW the Watchtower has consistently said they are not moving and the cost of buying the land from them through eminent domain(fair market value) would be extremely costly....are you willing for your taxes to go up to buy that land or to pay more for maintenance for NY Parks?
Dec. 21, 2010, 10:37 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
one additional point. The capital money has been mostly committed to build the park. even if you would stop construction now, the maintenance costs will still be about what the full build out park will cost(yes there would be some savings but in the long run, the additional capital cost of waiting will far exceed any savings). So not completing the full build out will be much more costly. haven't we waited for this long enough?
Are three relatively small development sites with housing worth not building it at all? Please note the anti people are not against commercial development, just mostly housing. Their view is that this privatizes the park. personally I feel a commercial development like Chelsea piers privatizes the park much more than housing does.
Reasonable people can disagree but for the most part the anti-people not allow reasonable discourse on this issue....
Dec. 21, 2010, 10:46 am
Ben from Prospect Heights says:
Wait, one of the alternatives is to build a parking structure in the park instead of housing? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.
Dec. 22, 2010, 10:19 am
James from Lower Manhattan says:
The anti-people are the reason we have had 40 years of rotting piers along all of NYC's waterfront.

Yes, it would be great if everything was a park and free and did not cost anything to maintain and was full of peace. love, and tofu, but that has never been the case.

The parking garage at Pier 40 has certainly helped Hudson River Park Trust pay some bills, but only serious commercial activity will help fund the park.

To that end, if the anti-people believe a parking garage will be a better option than some housing, then this park is doomed. Community activists, falsely emboldened by the killing of Westway, have held the City hostage for years, and will continue to lead to the financial ruin of what was once the greatest city in the history of civilization.
Dec. 23, 2010, 8:04 pm
Bob from Brooklyn says:
The genius of internet trolls knows no bounds. Use eminent domain to seize the JW's land.

I'm sure they'll just fold and move away, right?

They only have about 30 full-time lawyers, an entire legal department of support staff, a billion dollars worth of real estate left in Brooklyn, a few more billion elsewhere, and who knows how many billions in income every year.

Oh, and they'll take a police officer to the Supreme Court for giving them a parking ticket. And win.
I'm sure it will look very legitimate when we start seizing property that belongs to religious groups.

And I'm sure the Catholics and the Jews and the Muslims of America will just sit back, and let us seize another religion's property right?
Dec. 27, 2010, 11:44 pm
Jay from Brooklyn says:
Park, just another place for muggings. Try making our streets safe to walk first then think of a park.
Dec. 30, 2010, 11:12 am
retiredchick says:
Jehovah's Witnesses have always done everything legally, and by the Book (the Bible, that is). They are law-abiding, tax-paying (where required), and conscientious individuals. Their land and buildings were purchased, not for the purpose of acquiring and sitting on property until it was profitable to sell, but for the purpose of housing, and offices for the smooth running of the world-headquarters in Brooklyn. They applied, and was recognized as a tax-exempt religious organization, as per the standards instituted by the city of New York. Whether they sell or not, should not, as the comment of Publius says, be "time to change that"
Jan. 4, 2011, 2:45 pm
Sue says:
Sid, you are foolish. No one doesn't want a park. The anti housing people want the maximum amount of land dedicated to a park. They want a damn park and not a housing complex. A park with the recreation long advocated. Why not simply ask them and stop your foolish chatter? Even the Heights Association has on their website how hard they are working to avoid housing on the piers - housing should be the last resort not the first. Or are you a shill for the real estate lobby?
Jan. 6, 2011, 8:43 pm

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