Backers of waterfront park sue over site’s privatization

The Brooklyn Paper
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Even as work continues on Brooklyn Bridge Park, park advocates sued the Empire State Development Corporation on Tuesday claiming the agency broke the law by including private housing in a public park.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Legal Defense Fund lawsuit says 1,210 units of housing within the 85-acre public waterfront site would set a “dangerous precedent.”

“This is a scheme to give condo developers public land,” said Defense Fund President Judi Francis.

Supporters of Brooklyn Bridge Park, a housing, commercial and recreational development along the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO waterfronts, say it sets a different, and hardly dangerous, precedent. Publicly accessible green space will be kept in good repair with revenue generated by condo maintenance fees, they say.

But critics said the “a-park-ment” plan would end up pitting residents against park users in an uncomfortable pas-de-deux.

“There is tremendous conflict of interest when private interests try to maintain what is a public entity,” said Bronson Binger, a former assistant commissioner in the Parks Department, who supports the lawsuit.

“There are safety issues, noise issues — the needs of residents and park users are in conflict.”
The ESDC didn’t bat so much as an institutional eyebrow at the Defense Fund lawsuit.

“Litigation often occurs for such projects,” said spokeswoman Deborah Wetzel. “We are reviewing the papers and we will proceed as we usually do with such litigation.”

The lawsuit comes one week after superstar residential architect Robert A.M. Stern joined the park’s design team. Stern will help establish guidelines for the development of five residential buildings — including a small hotel — and three retail and office sites within the park’s borders.

A building at 360 Furman St., renamed One Brooklyn Bridge Park, will be the first condominium to open on the parkland.

The developer, Robert Levine, cites the park’s planned marina, landscaped greens and “round-the-clock security” in his marketing materials.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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