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Prescription grasses: B’Heights Assembly hopefuls pitch B’Bridge Park cures

The Brooklyn Paper
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This Pier 6 brawl just got interesting.

The candidates vying for outgoing Assemblywoman Joan Millman’s Brooklyn Heights seat all oppose additional development in Brooklyn Bridge Park, but that is about where their agreement on the issue ends. Development in the park is supposed to fund the greensward’s maintenance and ongoing expansion but each of the three would-be Democratic assembly members has another idea for how to cover the costs.

Pete Sikora, a union lobbyist with the support of liberal heavyweights including Mayor DeBlasio and the Working Families Party, thinks the entire setup, in which public land was turned over to developers for waterfront buildings with an open space component, is bunk and ought to be rejiggered to match a traditional, taxpayer-funded park model.

“Parks should be paid for by the public,” he said. “We need to reopen those agreements.”

Sikora, like his opponents female Democratic district leader Jo Anne Simon and building superintendent Doug Biviano, thinks that tax proceeds from the five already-in-motion private buildings in the greensward are enough to pay for it and that its board of directors hasn’t shown the need to build two luxury residential high-rises in the last spot set aside for development, at Pier 6.

“The board has not made a transparent or successful case that additional funds are even needed,” Sikora said. “The burden is on them to make that case.”

Sikora claims that if any more money is needed to build the remaining planned park features it could be derived from a state-issued bond through the Environmental Quality Bond Act, which taxpayers would pay off over time.

The current plan for the park, which includes the planned digs on Pier 6, was adopted in 2006. And last month the board that governs the park voted not to revisit those plans, saying the money that developers will pay to build there is necessary to keep the park in the black. Money or not, the candidates say the plans need another look because of all the development that has been happening in the area, including the closure of Long Island College Hospital to be turned into high-end housing.

Simon says the development scheme was the only way the park would have happened.

“Neither the state or the city would have given a nickel to build a park there,” said Simon, Millman’s choice for a replacement.

But in Simon’s opinion it is time to cut off real estate interests and consider a mix of income sources centered around a new ferry terminal at Pier 7.

“A ferry terminal could provide a tremendous amount of economic development,” she said, stressing that no one can prescribe a long-term plan for the park until its board opens up the books.

Biviano, the dark-horse candidate, had an even bolder recommendation — tacking the park onto the city budget, which he says the tax revenue of the in-progress developments in the park would cover.

“Every bit of that park should be for the people,” he said. “If you just put the park in the general park plan, the city could pay for it. It should be a New York City Park.”

Cutting off the flow of subsidies to developers — in the park and across the city — would free up even more money for the city, he said, pointing out that Brooklyn real estate is hotter than it has ever been.

“If we talk about tax break for developers it was something that was needed back in the ’70s,” he said. “The developers do not need subsidies at this point. They will build anyway.”

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
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Reasonable discourse

Funny from That Way says:
All of this was said at the candidates' forum held by the Brooklyn Heights Blog last week, which was covered in this paper. Why is this story coming out on primary day? And with such an obvious skewing towards one candidate? Pretty blatant and amateur manipulation. Also unethical and hopefully ineffective.
Sept. 9, 2014, 10:42 am

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