They’ve got an authority problem.
Brooklyn Bridge Park bigwigs are flip-flopping on which government agency is responsible for mandating terms of development within the green space, discrediting one of their main arguments in the legal battle over two controversial towers planned for Pier 6, according to opponents of the high-rises.
Lawyers for the park and the towers’ developer argued repeatedly that the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation — a semi-private group that oversees the lawn in conjunction with the city — was in charge of green-lighting the project, not the state-run Empire State Development Corporation, claiming the settlement terms of a 2015 lawsuit only required the group to “seek” the state agency’s approval for the scheme, not actually get it.
But a September request for proposal that meadow honchos issued for another development inside it listed the Empire State Development Corporation as the project’s lead agency — a designation that park leaders later changed to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, which implied they were blowing smoke the whole time, according to critics.
“The park has an incredible record of lying, just out and out lies,” said Judi Francis, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund. “You can’t keep changing the rules in the middle of the case.”
One of the main unanswered questions in the ongoing suit is whether a new environmental study should have been required before the development project began — a decision that falls to the lead agency — because the previous one happened in 2005.
The meadow’s attorneys claimed its honchos were in charge, giving them the authority to decide a second review wasn’t necessary, a point they argued tirelessly in their final appearances before Justice Carmen Victoria St. George, who will now decide the towers’ fate.
“There was no legal basis for ESD to act as the lead agency when this project was approved,” said David Paget during the last day of testimony on Nov. 15. “The law could not be more plain and clear, ESD was not the lead agency, Brooklyn Bridge Park was the lead agency.”
But opponents and the lawyer representing civic group the Brooklyn Heights Association, which filed suit against the Pier 6 high-rises in 2016, contended that decision fell to the state, which should have conducted a second survey because the area changed so much over those 11 years.
And the green-space honchos’ recent request for proposal to develop a three-story Furman Street building within the meadow corroborates that argument because it named the state’s development corporation as the agency in charge — and is akin to a smoking gun, according to a legal eagle following the case, who noted that all development in Brooklyn Bridge Park is subject to the same rules set forth in its 2006 operating agreement, the General Park Plan.
Two days after the attorney representing the Heights Association pointed out the contradiction before the judge, park officials changed the lead agency on the Furman Street request for proposal to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, which supports the crux of their case for building the high-rises.
“That description was in error. As the sole agency with discretionary authority over the 334 Furman Street project, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, not the ESD, is the lead agency for that project’s environmental review,” Paget, the park’s lawyer, wrote in a Nov. 17 letter to St. George that was shared with this newspaper.
Meadow honchos claimed the edit was merely due to a typo that was quickly corrected, according to a park spokeswoman.
“The original RFP had a simple error and when it was brought to our attention, it was corrected,” said Sarah Krauss. “RFP respondents were then notified of the change.”
But Francis charged Brooklyn Bridge Park leaders were in fact caught red-handed, and scrambled to change the document to fit their bogus argument.
“You can’t switch horses in the middle of the race. It’s either state or the city, you can’t keep switching whenever it suits developers’ needs — or greed,” she said.
Paget did not respond to a request for comment.