Parks and declarations: Judge gives Pier 1 condos and hotel the all-clear

View askew: The still-rising Pierhouse development, as viewed from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
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It may be an eyesore, but it isn’t illegal.

Developers can now finish building a luxury hotel and condominium project in Brooklyn Bridge Park after a judge last Friday threw out a lawsuit filed by local activists hoping to preserve an iconic view of the titular bridge.

The judge found that the so-called Pierhouse development at Pier 1 does not exceed established height restrictions, as activists had argued, and, regardless, it is now too late for them to challenge a plan that had been hashed out over years of compromise between government agencies, community groups, and developers. Still, he agreed, it does ruin the view.

“The casual passerby walking along Brooklyn’s majestic Promenade is struck with the indelible impression that these buildings, now nearing completion, are simply too large,” said Brooklyn Supreme Court judge Lawrence Knipel in his decision.

Activist group Save the View Now filed the suit on April 21, claiming that Pierhouse developer Toll Brothers had blown the park’s 100-foot height restriction with rooftop bulkheads and a bar that added an extra 30 feet to one of its 10-story buildings, blocking views of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The judge had issued a temporary restraining order on the project until the case was heard, and Friday’s ruling means the developer can now resume work on the Pierhouse complex, which comprises three of the seven towers that are being constructed as cash cows for the ongoing maintenance of the waterfront green space.

Knipel said that the parties that negotiated the plans had known about the extra rooftop accouterments for years and everyone appeared to be a-okay with the situation. The activists should have brought this lawsuit back in 2006, when the park’s general project plan was settled on, or in 2013, when the final plan was filed with the city and construction began, he wrote in his ruling. The statute of limitations has well and truly passed, he said.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, the semi-private body that operates the park, has long argued that the open-air watering hole and equipment were always part of the plan, and that activists were aware of it. But the influential Brooklyn Heights Association, which helped broker the deal in 2006, remembers the negotiations differently, claiming that park honchos pledged to keep the rooftop utilities out of sight and that neighbors only realized the building was going to have some extra baggage once the towers had already gone up. Knipel said the court could find no evidence of such an agreement.

Save the View Now’s chief says the group still believes the development violates the height restriction, but hasn’t decided if it will keep fighting the almost-completed condo and hotel complex in court.

“We’re obviously very disappointed with the decision,” said Steven Guterman, who lives near the park. “We think the judge may have gotten facts and issues incorrect, but we haven’t really huddled with lawyers yet to figure out what’s next.”

Save the View Now and other preservation groups have previously argued that the development infringes on legally protected views of the bridge from the promenade, but the judge said that the activist group has now given up on that claim.

A representative from Toll Brothers and the company’s partner Starwood Capital Group said the developers felt vindicated by the judge’s decision.

“We are very pleased with the court’s decision and findings of fact that confirm the Pierhouse development complies with the height restrictions imposed on the project which were adopted after years of extensive community review and input,” said spokesman Bud Perrone.

If nothing else, Save the View Now’s campaign may have saved the views in a different part of the park. Park administrators agreed last month to specifically include rooftop equipment as part of the height restrictions on two apartment towers slated for construction near Pier 6, as part of a court settlement with a different group of activists.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated to clarify judge's comments.
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Reasonable discourse

Jim from Cobble Hill says:
I guess the bribes made it through.
June 14, 2015, 11:01 pm
bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
wonder if these condos will affordable housing or poor doors.
June 15, 2015, 7:52 am
freddy from slope says:
since the decision makes one finding but then loosely says they were too late anyways, I would expect the judge is gilding the lily to get the desired result.

look deeply into that decision and look for basic absurdities.
June 15, 2015, 8:23 am
ty from pps says:
if it isn't affordable nobody will live there.
June 15, 2015, 8:32 am
eddie says:
Actually, no, freddie. The decision establishes a series of milestones from which to measure the statute of limitations and plaintiff is too late by any standard. Nothing loose about it.
June 15, 2015, 8:49 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
Taking public views and land for private development. Shame on us all, again.
June 15, 2015, 8:58 am
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
Shazooom! Awright y'all skiddy along now skeech
June 15, 2015, 9:09 am
GPSkip from Greenpoint says:
This is the legacy of Michael Bloomberg's approach to developing open space with the private sector. Incredible that the destruction of this magnificent park and view of one of America's great historical landmarks was fostered to what end? Is Bushwick Inlet Park next?
June 15, 2015, 9:56 am
freddy from slope says:

you didnt read the same decision. for now i will assume that the plaintiffs are cognizant of its failings.
June 15, 2015, 10:34 am
Jimmy from Flatbush says:
Umm... GPSkip, "the destruction of this magnificent park"?! You mean, the park that wouldn't have existed without any of the things you object to? Last time I checked, this area was basically collection of rotting piers and crumbling buildings mixed with vacant lots.

When this area was taken over, the building of the parks and recreation facilities happened chronologically first. However, the private development was always part of the mix.

Now, I don't disagree that there are fundamental problems with this version of a public-private approach used here... but there was no and is no "destruction of a magnificent park." Not to mention, the park that is there right now is not changing. So, I'm not sure what park you're whining about being destroyed.

Wait, you're not whining about the view from the friggin' promenade are you? That can't be the park you're suggesting is being "destroyed" right?
June 15, 2015, 1:01 pm
freddy from slope says:

The port authority caused this by holding onto waterfront property long after shipping and manufacturing were, effectively, dead.

it could have happened years before otherwise as there would have been plenty of developers willing to stick to the envelope.

what bloomberg cronies wouldnt do for less than $100,000,000 profit someoneelse would have done for ONLY $90,000,000 profit.
June 15, 2015, 1:10 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
Get ready for more marks for mugging. If any muggers out there are looking at this, you're gonna get paid for sure catching 1 of these affluent know-it-alls coming out of their condo building. Do it for us real ny'ers.
June 15, 2015, 1:20 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
Say what you wanna say about my last comment but alot of people agree with me. We're tired of BS like this being built with little or no regards to the existing residents. If any future residents of this crap gets stuck up for a laptop, iphone, etc. then GOOD.
June 15, 2015, 1:33 pm
Jimmy from Flatbush says:
So, jjm, what "existing residents"!? The landed gentry of Brooklyn Heights or perhaps there were some homeless living on one of the crumbling piers?

(Freddy -- I don't' disagree with you, btw. But come on. These 'social justice' comments are silly.)
June 15, 2015, 2:16 pm
Jimmy from Flatbush says:
Also -- last time I went to the park (a couple weekends ago), it was PACKED with people... including the pretty awesome recreation facilities on the piers (soccer, roller skating, handball, bocce, basketball, etc.) Seems like LOTS AND LOTS of "regard for existing residents" is taking place, because thousands at any given moment are loving the park.
June 15, 2015, 2:20 pm
Lee Sonnier from Irishtown says:
What's the contact # for Brooklyn Bridge Park and why does an ostensibly "public" entity hide from both the public AND journalists like that?

Hi Regina!!! Corrupt, and corrupting much?

Noah, I kid, blackly, but it would be instructive for all of us if you interviewed Regina sometime. Wonder what she would say?
June 15, 2015, 4:36 pm
bob from brooklyn says:
bought and sold.
June 15, 2015, 8:33 pm
bob from brooklyn says:
Where's our Bill?
June 15, 2015, 8:34 pm
Barry from Flatbush says:
They are taking your park. They are taking your hospital. They are taking your shops. They are taking your apartment. They are taking your neighborhood.

And you will do nothing.
June 15, 2015, 11:29 pm
Joe from Brooklyn Heights says:
The next thing you will find is the lawyers representing this hotel will find a way to not pay for the maintenance of the park and walla! That's how you steal prime real estate land from the public,
June 16, 2015, 8:25 am
Dan from Boerum Hill says:
You can either have Brooklyn Bridge Park paid for by the taxpayers like you and me or you can have a bunch of rich suckers pay for it for us at the price of a slightly diminished view, one tiny section out of a large expansive waterfront. But you can't have it both ways.
June 16, 2015, 8:54 am
brent from WT says:
can't believe this was able to go through, whoever didn't step up in Brooklyn government to protect the views really needs to be run out of town

June 16, 2015, 9:18 am
Jimmy from Flatbush says:
I have to say that this project has VASTLY improved my view of the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge. There's now a massive park where I can stroll around taking it all in, while enjoying trees and plants and recreation facilities.

I don't happen to own one of the handful of multi-million dollar properties where the view is *slightly* changed. And the Brooklyn Bridge Park is far better than the promenade... Keep in mind, the Bklyn Heights gentry whined about building the promenade too when Robert Moses proposed it. Saying it would attract riff raff.

Why do the mulit-millionaires on the front "edge" of Brooklyn Heights have any more right to the view than the multi-millionaires closer to the river?
June 16, 2015, 11:28 am
xo from gp says:
Leaving the machinery hanging out there all willy nilly like an after thought reveals a total lack of design sense driven by greed.
June 16, 2015, 10:15 pm
Jill Santora from Fulton Ferry says:
Jimmy from Flatbush, nobody (well hardly anybody) gives a damn about the Brooklyn Heights swells; they have a long-time record nearly as bad as that as the vile Regina Meyer and the bribe-paying/taking scum behind this project.

However, lest you forget, the Brooklyn Heights promenade is a public park and-- take it for granted if you like-- an international tourist attraction, in addition to a highly frequented place of respite and recreation etc.

THAT'S what should-- and easily-- could have been better protected.

But Regina Meyer took the $$$ and lies lies lies lies lies lies lies lies and hides all the home.
June 16, 2015, 11:30 pm
Jimmy from Flatbush says:
Like this view, Jill?
June 17, 2015, 8:59 am

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