Decades of planning will culminate in a small, but usable, Brooklyn Bridge Park by the end of 2009, state planners promised this month — but the same officials admitted that they don’t know when, or if, key parts of the 85-acre open space and condo development will be completed because of a lack of public funding.
The 1.3-mile strip of open space from Pier 1 to Pier 6 along the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO waterfront was budgeted to cost $150 million in 2002, but that figure has soared to well over $300 million today — yet only $225 million has been allocated by the state and city. As a result, the state-run Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation now says it won’t finish the entire project by 2012.
Despite the setback, Regina Myer, president of the BBPDC, pointed out that most of the demolition work is done and construction would soon begin in earnest on Pier 1, adjacent to Fulton Ferry Landing.
“We’re thrilled,” she said. “The park is really getting built.”
Myer, who took over the agency about eight months ago, revealed the construction schedule at separate meetings of the park’s directors and with the public last Monday. She told The Brooklyn Paper that she was emphasizing public spaces over the residential development of 1,200 units of housing inside the park that is also part of the plan.
“Park construction must precede residential development,” she said.
But housing and commercial development inside the park’s footprint are an essential part of the unusual financing scheme to maintain the park. Instead of paying property taxes, condo residents and business owners will pay annual fees to cover what was roughly expected to be $15 million in operating costs.
That $15 million is probably not sufficient anymore, Myer admitted, but quickly added, “I don’t anticipate a huge increase” in fees.
By the end of next year, most of the rolling lawns of Pier 1 will be built, as will the “grand” entrances at Atlantic Avenue and Old Fulton Street, and a playground, a volleyball beach, dog run and concession stand on Pier 6 and its nearby uplands, Myer said.
A sliver of Pier 1 is already open. It is the only place from which tourists can see all four of the “New York City Waterfalls.”
A beach planned for Pier 4 and landscaped areas near Pier 2 will be finished in 2011, Myer said. And in 2012, ballfields and courts and a barbecuing area will be open on Pier 5.
Construction of a third of the park has been taken off the table until additional public money can be secured.
The gap of at least $75 million has plunged most of Pier 2 and all of Pier 3 into limbo. This portion of the park would be terrain for basketball courts, in-line skating area, tetherball, passive meadows, and, in the water around the docks, safe kayaking areas. A marina and the other calm water area is in doubt also because state conservation officials have not signed off on attenuators that are necessary to smooth out any waves or tidal activity in the East River. The attenuators may negatively affect aquatic life.
The state also needs more money to finish Pier 6 and to acquire land from Con Edison on John Street in DUMBO to extend the park past the Manhattan Bridge.
Critics of the park’s plan say the construction delays and soaring budget — which Myer said is “more than $300 million” — are due to an over-ambitious design that needs things like wave attenuators so that kayakers can paddle safely.
“The budget needs to be addressed and the design needs to be re-looked at,” said Sandy Balboza, president of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, who hopes temporary access could be created at the southern end of the park, just as it has on Pier 1 at the northern end.
Others, including Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, say the revised timeline salvages a stalled and under-funded project that Myer inherited from her predecessors.
“I’m so pleased that anything is starting right away,” she said.
Not everyone is so pleased.
On July 4, the sliver of open space on Pier 1 — so inviting to would-be fireworks watchers who flocked to the waterfront to mark our nation’s 232rd birthday — was closed for a private party thrown for veterans by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy.