Last night: Heated debate over towers at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Five seconds left: Edward Kramer of the Empire State Development Corporation, moderates a heated hearing at which neighbors loudly jeered and booed speakers with whom they disagreed.
The Brooklyn Paper
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The city must kill plans to build two money-making apartment towers near the Atlantic Avenue end of Brooklyn Bridge Park because the skyscrapers are not needed to keep the open space in the black and will only add to congestion and overcrowding in area that is about to be densely developed, according to residents and politicians who spoke at a heated meeting last night at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights.

The vast majority of those who sounded off at the gathering — a requirement of the settlement of a lawsuit against the Pier 6 plans by an anti-development group and hosted by the Empire State Development Corporation and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, the agencies that oversee development in the park — reiterated claims that the buildings are overkill in an area where new luxury apartments will proliferate thanks to the closure, sale, and redevelopment of the former Long Island College Hospital nearby.

“The neighborhood’s changes are not being driven by thoughtful urban planning, but rather by real estate values that would have been considered laughable in 2005,” wrote state Sen. Daniel Squadron in a letter he submitted to the groups that outlined his reasons for reconsidering the plan. “When considered alongside the LICH development (literally), PS 8 wait lists, and other rapid changes, all of which are contemplated in isolation, it is impossible to argue that these developments do not have a collective impact on neighborhood character.”

Squadron also questioned the methods of the agencies which he claimed were doing everything they could to squash debate and push the towers through.

“I would like to respectfully point out that this process — the mid-summer modification hearing, the park staff’s insistence on recommending a developer it is not authorized to select, the general rush to build, the last minute release of an “independent” financial analysis — suggest an urgency that is not supported by the facts, he wrote. “The park is not facing a crisis in its operating budget. The rights on the Pier 6 sites will not expire. The urgency seems more a matter of politics than one of policy.”

The meeting was scheduled to revolve around a set of modifications to the Corporation’s general project plan of 2005 that allow the park to close the loop road currently ringing the development sites, add ground-floor retail and a pre-kindergarten facility, and the adjust of height of the buildings in order to comply with federal flood guidelines. It kicks off a 30-day public comment period in which locals can submit testimony to Park honchos before they votes on the modifications later this fall.

But it quickly grew tense as activists regularly jeered and booed pro-development speakers, and police had to remove one speaker after he demanded more time and refused to yield the floor.

Ninety people signed up to speak, and out of the more than 30 speakers, only one finished her remarks within the allotted time.

A city pol and Brooklyn Bridge Park leader implored the crowd to focus on the benefits the modifications would bring to the community.

“Let’s not turn this into something that it’s not,” said Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who is also the chairwoman of the Park’s board of directors. “These development sites were approved in the 2005 GPP. All we are looking to do here is to make them better by adding these benefits.”

But to the Pier 6 opponents, the fact that the project’s general plan is now a decade old became a central reason to throw it out and start from scratch.

“This is a simple opportunity at least to take a step back and try and make good, rational decisions,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope). “We will allow both of those properties to be put up for sale for development without making a plan for where those kids are gonna go to school in a neighborhood where all the schools are overcrowded? That is insane!”

Brooklyn Bridge Park was conceived with the promise that it would be self-sufficient, with private developments in the park are financing the large swathe of green space running from Dumbo to Cobble Hill. But the Corporation is not bound by transparency rules like a public city agency would be, and opponents have long questioned whether all of the development project in the park are necessary for its financial stability.

Park officials might be able to keep the space running without the two new towers, but are reasonably playing it safe by generating slightly more than the bare minimum, according to a report by an independent analyst that the Corporation released on Thursday.

“If BBP were only responsible for covering operating, maintenance and capital costs, it could

feasibly do so with the forecasted revenue stream that does not include Pier 6,” said Barbara Byrne Denham, an economist who focuses on real estate development. “Given the Park’s complex cost structure that includes steep maritime expenses, as well as the challenges associated with forecasting economic conditions over a fifty year horizon in a borough and city that has endured higher than average market vicissitudes, BBP’s conservative approach to managing its finances is not only appropriate but necessary given the high level of risk that it faces.”

As the hearing steamed past its scheduled end time of 9 pm with no end in sight, it was clear on Thursday that anti-development activists simply do not want a pair of new residential towers in their front yard.

“Why does it have to be in Brooklyn Heights,” yelled one woman. “Why not build it in Williamsbu­rg?”

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

!!! says:
Rich white people to the rest of Brooklyn: "Go gentrify historically black neighborhoods instead!"

Rich white people to the rest of Brooklyn: "Pay for these parks with taxes, not with views. We can afford to pay more in taxes, I'm sure those in rapidly gentrifying historically minority neighborhoods can too... right?"

Rich white people to the rest of Brooklyn: "We're going to scream from the top of our lungs to prevent being modestly inconvenienced!"
July 31, 2015, 7:12 am
Curious George says:
Does Brad Lander even represent Brooklyn Bridge Park? Where was Steve Levin?
July 31, 2015, 7:54 am
I've noticed that from Gowanus says:
I've noticed that Levin has been absent from other meeting where the issue affects his district (location of retention tanks, DEC's long term control plan). As a constituent of Lander's I'm a little resentful that he is focusing time and attention on people who are represented by their own very capable council member.

Short answer - no Brad doesn't represent Brooklyn Bridge Park.
July 31, 2015, 10:10 am
Noah from The Brooklyn Paper says:
Curious George and I've Noticed:

Brad Lander was speaking as a representative of the neighboring district, which includes LICH and according to Lander and other opponents, will be affected by Pier 6.

Steve Levin also spoke last night, and he was actually the last politician I saw still in attendance past 9 pm.
July 31, 2015, 11:14 am
BKLows from Errywhere says:
They should build the buildings in Williamsburg where they promised to build a park and instead aren't building a park and use the money to fund an expanded park in BK heights where they were supposed to build a building.

- sounds legit. Great idea. Not a selfish NIMBY pig at all.
July 31, 2015, 11:52 am
TOM from Brooklyn says:
The New Democracy? All but one speaker are not allowed to speak their mind due to prearranged time limit. Prearranged by those who just don't want them speaking their mind. Gotta' look at that undemocratic rule. Let people speak.
July 31, 2015, 1:29 pm
I've noticed that from Gowanus says:
Thank you Noah for clarifying.
July 31, 2015, 3:03 pm
I've noticed that from Gowanus says:
Noah, thank you for clarifying.
July 31, 2015, 3:05 pm
steven from Brooklyn says:
Most of the visitors to the Park are not from Brooklyn Heights, but are from a braod range of neighborhoods across Brooklyn, New York and tourist from around the world. There is only 11 acres of open non-activity space in the whole Park for the millions who visit every year. The 3 acres that will be used for these building represent 30% of this open space. Why make the Park smaller for everyone just so a developer can make a ton on money?
July 31, 2015, 8:22 pm
Cityplanner from Brooklyn Heights says:
What's the rush? Why not put the entire project on hold, even for years, until the financial picture is completely clarified? (Because the proponents know that the numbers are not on their side. That's why they want to hurry to get the shovels in the ground.)
Aug. 1, 2015, 3:59 am
Tyler from pps says:
"There is only 11 acres of open non-activity space in the whole Park"

What the heck is that number, steven? "open non-activity space"?! What? Which of the 85 acres are 'closed activity spaces' that serve no purpose for visitors?

(Yes, I'm twisting your words... because your words are absurdly twisted already)
Aug. 1, 2015, 7:50 am
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
Councilman Brad Lander, strongly in favor and championing with a vengence the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Librray to be replaced by a 416 foot luxury tower (with a drastically shrunken library) says about these buildings:

“This is a simple opportunity at least to take a step back and try and make good, rational decisions,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope). “We will allow both of those properties to be put up for sale for development without making a plan for where those kids are gonna go to school in a neighborhood where all the schools are overcrowded? That is insane!”

How is this consistent thinking on his part? Maybe he doesn't think he will be effective opposing these BBP towers (being pushed by the same development "honchos" as are on the board of the Brooklyn Public Library, but knows that opposition to the boondoggle sale and shrinkage of a public library, a major public asset worth $120 million to the public could be very effective in ending that plan.

Now let's see how Lander behaves when it come to towers in Cobble Hill replacing LICH and how he maneuvers thinking he might or might not be effective in that regard.
Aug. 1, 2015, 11:02 am
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
For the next big fireworks hearing about whether unnecessary developer community-driven development should be approved, put Tuesday, August 18th in your calendars.

That's the next big step in the recent launch of the public approval process required to decide whether the Brooklyn Heights Library, Brooklyn's central destination library in Downtown Brooklyn should be sold and shrunk as proposed by the BPL (same "honchos" on the board as BBPC) working with a connected developer. The sale, accompanied by a drastic reduction in the library's size down to just one third, must go through a public approval process (ULURP). The next big step in the process that began on June 17th is a hearing before the Brooklyn Borough President on Tuesday, August 18th, more details at the link provided below.

It takes a long time and a lot of public investment to create these assets and the Brooklyn Heights Library was just recently greatly expanded (by one-third, building out over two wings) and fully upgraded in 1993 so that it is modernized to support a slew of computers. This was done at considerable public expense and sacrifice. Effectively, the building is five years newer than the adjacent 1988 Ratner building in which Hillary Clinton has chosen to locate her national campaign headquarters. The dollar value of the building to the public is over $120 million, $60 million to replace just the building, plus a value of mor than another $60 million for the land and right to expand public uses there.

This sturdy building, being sold to net virtually nothing, if not less than that, is one of the ones in best shape in the system (the BPL's refusal to fix the portion of the air condition that needs repair, plus the BPL's overestimation so of costs in connection therewith are a false issue), but it is important to note that the postponing of capital repairs in the system is recent, dating back to the formulation of the proposed real estate deals. In other words, the lure of the real estate deals has become a perverse incentive to underfund our libraries.

Why is City Council Brad Lander proclaiming a victory in obtaining adequate funds for the libraries when only a portion of the Bloomberg era cuts were restored and they still tell us that the libraries like this one are theseadays so underfunded that we have to sell them off and shrink them?

Here is information about the upcoming Brooklyn Borough President hearing Eric Adams will hold asking the public whether the Brooklyn Heights Library should be sold and shrunk.
Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams To Hold Uniform Land Use Review Procedure Public Hearing, August 18, 2015, On Whether Brooklyn Heights Library, Brooklyn’s Central Destination Library In Downtown Brooklyn Should Be Sold And Shrunk
Aug. 1, 2015, 11:19 am
Tyler from pps says:
Michael D. D. White -- Your comments are chock full of misinformation and/or exaggerations. Though, I guess we should be grateful you've only posted this much an not the full conspiracy theorist style content of your website.
Aug. 1, 2015, 11:47 am
Troll Hunter from Over the bridge says:
Lord please let Tyler find a girlfriend so he can stop being such a troll...
Aug. 1, 2015, 5:09 pm
Moses Kestenbaum ODA from Williamsburg says:
Bring down the towers, stop the sprawl. PS 8 is overcrowded, Alicia Glen is lying and empty empty talker, brooklyn park should stay as the name stands the BROOKLYN PARK
Aug. 2, 2015, 11:30 am
Pick a Name from Not-so-affluent Brooklyn says:
I am adamantly opposed to development in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Yet now that the BBP has approved and built elitist, out-of-reach, exclusive residences for the rich, I am 100% behind building residential towers on the two remaining development sites. Not only do I support the development of buildings on these sites, I support the use of city funds to develop them as sites for public, low income housing. Additionally, I support allowing variances to increase the height of these towers in order that we may locate as many WORKING POOR families on the edges of this park. We have heard enough from narrow-minded profit driven real estate developers, the obnoxiously self-centered "I got mine" residents of the heights, the real estate industry beholden BBPDC board and, of course, the fair-weather "who will fund my next campaign" politicians. It's a city park - an urban park. If the residential sites being developed in the park do not ultimately represent the racial and socio-economic demographics of the city, then I'd suggest the residents of Pierhouse and the Heights start boarding up their windows to avoid the coming pitchforks, torches, and bricks. If you don't recognize or deal with the iniquities of wealth and privilege in this microcosm of the larger city, then I'm pretty sure you'll be forced to deal with it in ways that are much more expensive and detrimental in the long run.
Aug. 2, 2015, 8:41 pm
atlanti yards neighbor from Atlantic Ave says:
Here's the real problem in the tale of two cities where Emma Wolf the Chief of Staff has ignored all complaints and comments from the public. You have Empire State Development where everything they touch ends up as a mess since they have high turnover and more political hacks than experienced professionals working in their office. All calls to Joe Chan the VP of Real Estate were ignored by ESD. ESD has assigned a "fellow" to be responsible to all the problems and community concerns. It's just so disorganized and corrupt on ever level.
Aug. 3, 2015, 10:26 am
Voice of Reason says:
"Brooklyn Bridge Park is great but there's not a single blade of grass for us to sit. If only those two lots over there right next to the BQE, nowhere near the water were turned into grass, we'd have the most charming place to sit and enjoy the day" said no one ever. BBP is beautiful and that beauty takes lots of money to maintain. That money can come from taxpayer pockets or it can come from the pockets of the rich who chose to live at these developments. Personally I'd prefer it come from the rich than from the poor. I am fortunate enough to spend most of my evenings watching the sunset from the promenade. Will my view be diminished? Slightly. Is it as big a deal as NIMBY's are making it? Not even close. We still get to enjoy one of the most sublime urban views in the world no worse obstructed than by the BQE. Lastly, NYC is growing. Get over it. There are three options: 1) We can fight every development in which case demand will far outweigh demand and housing prices will skyrocket even higher, 2) those with money can hire lawyers to make a fight for them in their neighborhoods (as is the case with BBP protestors) in which case the incoming residents will move to historically poor neighborhoods like Crown Heights and Bushwick instead and rid NYC of the diversity that made it great, or 3) we can collectively sacrifice parcels of lands to developers while negotiating below market rate rentals as part of the deal.
Aug. 3, 2015, 1:26 pm

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