What if, today, someone — anyone — decided that your local park didn’t belong to the public any more? Or maybe just the lake, the boat house, or the ball field didn’t belong to the public any more? Would you think that was OK?
Thankfully, what stops that from happening are the laws, rules and regulations that safeguard our parks.
That’s why the Brooklyn Heights Association, in conjunction with the Fulton Ferry Landing Association and the New York Landmarks Conservancy, filed suit to have the Tobacco Warehouse put back where it belongs — as protected parkland.
We found out that the Tobacco Warehouse had been “de-mapped” — literally taken off the park map — by various agencies so that it could be handed over more easily to a single entity, for free, for private development. This was done two years ago and never disclosed.
The focus of our lawsuit is transparency and the National Park Service’s failure to require that New York State follow the mandated process to remove parkland or, as it’s known, to “convert” parkland to non-park status. This process is used by the National Park Service nationwide whenever a parcel of parkland is requested to be removed from the park’s “protected” status for any reason. It really isn’t as complicated as some would have you think.
It’s simple: Parkland is protected so that everyone can enjoy it, and enjoy it without having to pay the price of a ticket. It doesn’t matter if the private developer or organization that wants the parkland has the best intentions, or is a non-profit entity. The general public loses when the Tobacco Warehouse is privately controlled. What’s more disturbing is that the very institutions that are supposed to protect our public land — the National Park Service and the New York State Department of Parks — did not do their job.
If we allow this to happen to the Tobacco Warehouse, what kind of precedent does that set?
We are proud that the Brooklyn Heights Association Board believes that it is no small matter when park agencies allow parks to be privatized. We are acting in the public’s interest, knowing that many people do care about that.
Jane McGroarty is president of the Brooklyn Heights Association.