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Activists: We’ll sue to stop Pier 6 towers after city-state ‘back-room’ deal bombshell

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City and state officials went behind the backs of residents and local pols in a failed “back-room” deal to green-light more apartments in Brooklyn Bridge Park, say activists who now claim their only recourse to stop the controversial development is to sue.

The secretive agreement came to light after state development officials pulled out of it at the last minute last Tuesday, citing questionable donations the project’s developer made to Mayor DeBlasio. But the city says it plans to plow ahead with the buildings anyway, and locals say litigation may now be the only way to stop them.

“They lied to us, they deceived us, we have no choice,” said Judi Francis, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, which led a failed suit to ban private development in the park in 2007.

Under the terms of a 2015 settlement of another lawsuit, the city was supposed to gain the approval of the Gov. Cuomo-controlled Empire State Development Corporation to build two high rises near Pier 6, but the agency had been withholding its thumbs up for months citing residents’ and pols’ objections.

City and Bridge Park bigwigs claim they need the towers to fund the ongoing maintenance of the park, but the activists’ commissioned an independent audit that claims the meadow is already flush with cash and more construction would violate its mandate to only build the bare minimum it needs to stay solvent.

The locals say they were “astonished and dismayed” to learn this week that the two administrations had been quietly hashing out a deal all along, with no apparent attempt to consult with them or consider their report.

A coalition of local pols opposed to the development, including Councilmen Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Brad Lander (D–Cobble Hill), state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), and Assemblywoman Jo Ann Simon (D–Carroll Gardens) were also in the dark, according to a rep for Levin.

State honchos delayed the deal claiming they want more time to probe donations developer Ral Companies made just weeks before scoring the Pier 6 contract, as well as the involvement of its lobbyist James Capalino — a close DeBlasio ally — and investor China Vanke, which is also embroiled in a scandal over the sale of a Manhattan nursing home.

But city leaders denied any conflict of interest — labeling the investigation a “smokescreen” — and said they can and will just go ahead without the state’s okay, as the settlement only asked them to “seek” its approval for some modifications to an earlier plan for the buildings, including the addition of below-market-housing.

“We intend to move ahead with this project, with or without the state,” said Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen.

An Empire State Development rep acknowledged the city may actually be able to do that if it doesn’t make the modifications, but slammed the mayor for trying to go it alone with ethical questions still hanging.

“There is no smokescreen — this is about integrity and ensuring that legitimate questions are answered,” said spokesman Jonah Bruno. “It was and remains our intention to hold a future meeting with the goal of adding affordable housing to the Brooklyn Bridge Park plan, but from recent reports, it seems the city feels approval is not necessary.”

Either way, if the city and park officials do go ahead with the Pier 6 plan, Francis says she and her allies will see them in court.

“If they can’t prove financial need, they risk being sued,” she said.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 1:01 pm, May 29, 2016
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Reasonable discourse

Judi francis says:
The city has no legal authority to build their housing plan on pier 6 without the ok from the state. That action on part of the city would be illegal. Of course we would hope the state would prevent the city from illegal actions and we depend on the city to work with the communities now fully coalesced together and with all other local elected officials to review the very clear facts that more housing is not, repeat not, needed to fund the park. But more park lands are needed given the incredible crush of new housing in the area. Our coalition would hope the state would prevent illegal actions. Citizen advocates and organizations look to govt to work with us. It is really disreputable that we citizens have to even consider law suits as all we have ever wanted are park lands for our families. These last three acres are critical to the entrance of this park and to enlivening businesses on Atlantic. They will be gone forever if privatized now with no need.
May 20, 2016, 10:45 am
b from gp says:
How strong are the practicing economic models of these and other built waterfront developments?

If they're infact strong, they should be required to set aside a fund to compensate for having compromised the borough's ability to adapt to future flooding, on a local scale.
May 20, 2016, 1:26 pm
History Buff from Downtown Brooklyn says:
@Ms. Francis
Repeating a something that's not true won't suddenly make it real. You might succeed in stirring up your troops and raising a little money for your non-profit but you will lose.

NEW YORK STATE'S OWN ESD COUNSEL DISAGREES WITH YOU.

Richard Dorado, Senior Counsel to Empire State Development, July 30, 2015:

"....the fact is that whether and how Pier 6 is developed or not developed, is ultimately a decision of the board of the Park Corporation and not a decision of ESD and BBPDC."

Page 17 of http://esd.ny.gov/PublicMeetings_Notices/2015/07302015_BBPDC_PublicHearingTranscript.pdf
May 20, 2016, 3:31 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
@History Buff

Know your history. No one believes or trusts the ESD Corp. Where have you been? Atlantic Yard ring a freaking bell?

My god, the counsel for ESD makes a statement and you bark? So something is true because a state lawyer says so??? Let's all be thankful the courts will make the final decision on these matters.

This is just another pay to play, and the surrounding communities are going to stop the game.
May 20, 2016, 6:57 pm
John G. from Cobble Hill says:
Park Administration must go. They are incompetent. Bunch of liars, too. What good are having local politicians if they don't protect parks? Or protect laws like the scenic view plane? This is what creates a Trump, when government tricks the people for too long, like this big deceit saying they need the money and don't.

And b from gp - they shouldn't be building in a flood zone in the first place. Park can be the bioswale but not if housing is there.
May 21, 2016, 5:12 am
Ian from Williamsburg says:
De blasio just wants to hit his arbitrary subsidized housing numbers he campaigned around. There is no local political support for his plan but he's intent to plow through all local interests.
May 21, 2016, 7:57 am
Jacob from Vinegar Hill says:
By supporting continued growth, NYC is setting a bad example for cities of developing nations around the globe. Why should Lagos, Guangzhou or Mumbai care, if we don't.
May 21, 2016, 12:32 pm
Jacob from Vinegar Hill says:
Consider Cuba's saving grace was its repression.
May 21, 2016, 12:46 pm
Daniel from Brooklyn Heights says:
From NASA,

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2016/05/20/10-things-you-should-know-about-sea-level-rise-and-how-bad-it-could-be/
May 21, 2016, 1:29 pm
Michael from Williamsburg says:
Maybe someone has figured out how to achieve eternal youth, but from what I understand growth inevitably leads to death. Death is natural, but usually not in the case of overdevelopment thanks to styrofoam and such. So we are 'cleaning' toxic sites...are those toxins being neutralized or merely relocated?
May 21, 2016, 1:37 pm

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