‘Park’ meeting a gripefest

The Brooklyn Paper
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A long-awaited meeting on Monday night to discuss the recreational activities people want in the Brooklyn Bridge Park development quickly became a gripe session where residents — including DUMBO’s principal developer, David Walentas — complained that the project is being “crammed down” their throats.

In a dramatic moment, Walentas, whose Two Trees Management company has dominated the DUMBO development market for decades, called out Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy Executive Director Marianna Koval for “excluding” him from the process.

“I’ve built a world-class neighborhood in DUMBO,” Walentas said. “This process has been going on for 10 years, Marianna, and you have specifically excluded us.”

Walentas’s outburst drew praise from some and disgust from others.

“I’m glad he stood up and said he’s been excluded,” said Jean Campbell, who has lived in the Riverside Apartments on Columbia Place for more than 30 years. “He’s not the only one. This plan has been crammed down everyone’s throat.”

Cindy Goulder, a Hicks Street resident, shouted down Walentas at the meeting, saying he was being “disingenuo­us.”

“He has the ear of all of our elected officials,” Goulder said. “And his development projects are increased in value by the presence of the park.”

Walentas was not the only person at the meeting wondering whether the public’s input would influence the state’s vision for the 85-acre condo-and-open space development, which will stretch 1.3 miles of the DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights waterfront.

“We’re just venting,” said Ken Diamondstone, who lives near the southern edge of the proposed park on Clinton Street. “They’ve made their plans and now we’re supposed to figure out a way to make the things we want fit within their plan.”

Koval reiterated that the public’s input was vital to future programming in the park, though she admitted that the “physical design is substantially complete.”

Still, she added, “many questions about park use to be explored, and we’re trying to get as much input from the community as possible.”

The meeting, at Congregation Mt. Sinai in Brooklyn Heights, was convened by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy to solicit ideas from the public about uses for the park, but residents like Diamondstone continued to fight the old battle over the “park” project itself — namely that the state violated the law when it included housing within the park.

That decision came in 2002, when the state and city allocated the $150 million cost to build the “park” — but only on the condition that the greenspace be self-sustaining.

Hence, the ESDC added condo towers at each end of the project, buildings whose maintenance fees would cover the anticipated $15-million upkeep budget for the open space.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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