There’s no compromising.
The new judge overseeing the legal battle on whether or not to erect two controversial high-rises at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 pushed lawyers’ final arguments to next week after unsuccessfully brokering a compromise during yet another closed-door session on what was supposed to be the last day of litigation on Monday.
The roughly two-hour talks in Justice Carmen Victoria St. George’s chambers followed arguments before the court between attorneys representing civic group the Brooklyn Heights Association and the park and its chosen developers. Lawyers for the green-space honchos dominated the exchange, claiming the Heights Association’s opposition to one tower’s affordable housing — which the group alleges violates the park’s 2006 General Project Plan that requires development parcels within it generate revenue — is its real motivation for demanding the plans be scrapped entirely, referencing the association’s objection to the below-market-rate units when Mayor DeBlasio first announced them two years ago.
“The Brooklyn Heights Association, in great numbers and with great vehemence, opposed the modifications,” said David Paget. “So how does one reconcile that opposition with the repeated assertion, ‘We don’t oppose affordable housing in this project’ — you did oppose it, you opposed it in the summer of 2015.”
St. George then pushed the point, asking the civic group’s lawyer if the inclusion of affordable housing — now a major crux of the case — was indeed the driving force behind its opposition to the 15 and 28-story towers at the foot of Atlantic Avenue, which the group also argued were too tall after developers filed plans last year.
“When we boil it down, is affordable housing the sticking point?” she said. “Is height almost a resolved issue — to the point that your main concern with this development is the affordable housing?”
But Heights Association attorney Richard Ziegler quickly refuted that suggestion, instead reiterating his claim that construction of the high-rises would violate Brooklyn Bridge Park’s operating agreement that mandates meadow stewards only build as much housing as is needed to fund upkeep of the park.
“It’s absolutely not the main concern,” he said. “The main concern is that the respondents are going ahead with building two very large buildings at Pier 6 in violation of the General Project Plan.”
Ziegler and his client contend the park is flush with cash, but green-space caretakers argue the towers are necessary to bring in money needed to restore the timber piles that hold Pier 6 above the East River, which crustaceans with a taste for wood are gnawing away.
The day’s arguments followed litigants Nov. 2 court appearance, during which St. George suggested park honchos show more consideration for their neighbors who oppose the high-rises’ construction than for the nuances of the law.
The judge requested all parties return to the courtroom on Nov. 14 in order to make their final points before she rules.
Construction of the towers will continue in the meantime, but will not influence the final verdict, according to a ruling by St. George’s predecessor, Justice Lucy Billings, who was taken off the case in order to oversee asbestos litigation in August after hearing several months of arguments.
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