Deal is sealed: There will be housing — but less of it — in Brooklyn Bridge Park

The Brooklyn Paper
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Two key lawmakers who had long fought luxury high-rise development inside Brooklyn Bridge Park have signed off on a deal that would scale back the housing — and possibly eliminate most of it entirely — but still meet a mandate that the greenspace’s $16-million annual maintenance cost not come from city taxpayers.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens) won’t use their veto over a luxury condo at John Street and two others at Pier 6 now that the Bloomberg Administration has changed its position on allowing future tax revenues from 30 currently tax-exempt buildings to go to the park if those buildings are sold.

“We found a path to complete Brooklyn Bridge Park and address long-standing community concerns about housing on the site,” said Squadron, hailing the agreement as drastically reducing luxury housing and altering the funding plan for the massive 85-acre park.

“This agreement gets the park built faster.”

The buildings are currently owned by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, which is slowly moving its operations upstate. The Society — commonly known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses — does not pay taxes on office buildings, printing plants and residences under controversial federal law that relieves religious organizations of such levies.

To fight residential housing inside Brooklyn Bridge Park, Squadron had pushed the city to capture taxes from the “Watchtower properties” and set the funds aside for Brooklyn Bridge Park — but the city opposed the plan as setting a dangerous precedent and for siphoning off funds for maintaining a luxury park in a rich neighborhood instead of providing other vital city services.

Under the deal, the John Street condo would be reduced from 170 feet to 130 feet and two other towers at Pier 6 could shrink or be cut altogether as the Watchtower properties begin yielding normal city property taxes.

There’s a catch, however: Watchtower must sell its buildings by Jan. 1, 2014 or the city can move forward with the original development plan.

Squadron had previously vowed to veto any future housing developments on John Street and Pier 6 if the city did not yield on Watchtower.

Squadron and Millman won that veto power under the 2010 deal that gave the city control of the park’s construction.

Opponents have long complained that luxury housing inside Brooklyn Bridge Park’s 1.3-mile footprint betrays the very definition of “park,” making the waterfront greenspace merely a backyard for rich developers and their future tenants. But supports of housing say that their hands are tied because of a 2002 agreement that requires the $350-million park to raise its own maintenance budget so it would not become a drain on city and state coffers.

Updated 6:57 pm, August 2, 2011: Amends some language, but does not change other language.
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Reasonable discourse

Frank from Furter says:
the art of compromise is a good thing...
Aug. 2, 2011, 10:44 am
Ace from New Utrecht says:
why shouldn't we use tax dollars to maintain a public park?
Aug. 2, 2011, 11:31 am
David Brown from LES says:
What is really happening is desperation time for Squadron & Millman. They know that there is no way that the Park will be completed in the next 25 years, nor will the City taxpayers afford $16m a year in upkeep, so they have no option to change their anti-housing mindset. They also know how valuable the Watchtower properties are and that the Society will not sell them in such a poor economic environment (Even if they find possible buyers who can get the necessary bank financing), and finally they know it takes a long time to get an area rezoned (Environmental Impact Studies, Public Debate, Hearings in the City Council, and of course actual votes are just a few things involved in this).
So what they are doing, is punting the issue away until 2014, figuring that they can always say "I tried to avoid housing, but what can I do?" argument to the community. This will allow them to cover their you know what's, the City to get the housing built, the community to get the park, and eventually the City will get the tax $$$$$$$$ from the Watchtower properties being converted into condos. Very nice and very neat.
Aug. 2, 2011, 11:38 am
Bill from Brooklyn Heights says:
Right you are, David. The only thing is, they sold the community out. And that community will bite back. There will be options next time around at the pols. And Ace, that is the best question few ever ask.
Aug. 2, 2011, 11:46 am
Frank from Furter says:
Pilots(payments in lieu of taxes) are tax money too. Its just in this case the payments are dedicated to the maintenance of the park and not subject to the whim and caprice of the government funding budgets each year. The City essentially gave the land to the park and didn't want the parks department budget relied upon to fund the park(its a good thing they didn't the parks department funding has I believe been cut every year but one since then).

Whether they sold the community out is dependent on your view of the funding but the recent study found the only funding to be relied upon is housing. Heck even the use of the Watchtower property relies on housing. So unless you are intellectually challenged, its either housing within the park or housing adjacent to the park(which means the city is given access to more land for the park). but that would require some honesty....
Aug. 2, 2011, 2:47 pm
steve from brooklyn heights says:
ahh whatever. suck it up. so there are a few apartments.
would you rather not have the park?
Aug. 2, 2011, 5:15 pm
Roberto from Cobble Hill says:
You are telling me that no one is complaining about this deal?????? Don't buy it.
Aug. 3, 2011, 12:37 am
Frank from Furter says:
Of course there are people complaining about the deal! The same people who propose millions for an walk way over Atlantic avenue but have no way to pay for it. Remember that this deal(the City taking over the capital payments to the Park) came about because the State-for whatever reason- couldn't put up its fair share of capital payments. since the master plan came out in 2002, housing has always been the main way that the park would pay for its operational budget. An operational budget that has to pay for the upkeep of the piers.

The alternative ways to get money- one of which was user fees on people using the park- were pipe dreams or totally devoid of the current reality of what generates money. This isn't Bryant Park. Retail in 360 Furhman has gone empty for years. The large restauranteurs of the past that paid big bucks aren't here anymore. The new World Trade Center could not find an operator for the proposed restaurant on the top of the building at all. Tavern on the Green is now a visitors center etc....
Aug. 3, 2011, 8:58 am
bill from boerum Hill says:
Many ways to pay for park without housing inside it. Isn't that what everybody wants, more park land for the people. If they do the Jehovah properties deal why don't they use all the buildings and get rid of all the housing. They could use the extra cash to build the same bridge they got in the Heights for one on Atlantic. What is wrong with that, Frank? Don't the people on Atlantic deserve the same as the hotel guests got on Pier 1?
Aug. 3, 2011, 1:40 pm
Frank from Furter says:
Hi Bill its a lot cheaper to build a bridge from up above down from Brooklyn Heights to the Park then having to build a flyover from Hicks street up over the Highway and back down to the Park...and you know that people won't use it anyway. NYers hate flyovers they are mostly empty where ever they have been built. With The ADA regs they require a long run up and run down. Its easier when you start from up above as in the Promenade or Squibb park..because its only half the thing you have to bridge.

You can always donate the money to pay for the bridge...
Aug. 3, 2011, 3:19 pm

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