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Judge to Bridge Park, activists on Pier 6: Work it out

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Don’t hate … negotiate!

Brooklyn Bridge Park officials and activists who are suing to stop the construction of two towers at Pier 6 in the park must try to work out a deal they both can live with, a judge admonished the two warring parties during a court hearing Wednesday.

“What you would want to talk to them about is what changes you’d want to make to the project to make it more palatable for the community,” Judge Lucy Billings told lawyers for the Brooklyn Heights Association civic group. “My first question when you come back [into court] is going to be how much dialogue you’ve had.”

The influential association filed a lawsuit in July 2016 alleging the waterfront park is not living up to its agreement to limit housing within the park to the bare minimum needed to keep it financially solvent.

But the greensward honchos claim it needs cash from the payments the properties would make to park coffers to bug-proof the East River pier’s timber pilings and keep them from being devoured by wood-hungry crustaceans called marine borers.

The proceedings began with a bizarre exchange between Billings and Heights Association attorney Richard Ziegler during which she appeared to misinterpret the crux of the case as being about the cost of the towers.

“Even if they spend less money on the project and only spent what they need to fund maintenance operation of the park, the resulting project you get may not be any more desirable,” she said.

“You can have a project that’s much more desirable to the community that’s much more expensive rather than using as much resources from the city,” Billings said later.

Ziegler explained to the judge that the case is actually about whether the park already has enough cash to pay for its upkeep.

“It’s not a question of how much money is spent, it’s a question of how much money they need to spend,” he said.

And lawyers for the park told Billings they were convinced the Heights Association wouldn’t budge from its stance unless the deal involved changing the project significantly, including eliminating the 100 units of below-market-rate units in the shorter of the buildings.

“There’s no indication that anything short of preventing affordable housing and changing the project in a major way” would be satisfactory, said park attorney Haley Stein.

Park activists, however, have argued that they’re not opposed to below-market-rate digs at the site, and have been rallying against the project since before that component was introduced in 2015, said Ziegler.

The proceedings were interrupted when Billings called both sides into her chambers for a lengthy discussion, during which she urged them to negotiate a possible truce.

Lawyers for the park and the Heights Association later declined to comment on what was said in Billings’ chambers, although the civic group has previously suggested compromises, such as moving the proposed affordable housing to the park’s headquarters on Furman Street in exchange for reducing the height of one of the towers.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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