✔ Poll

Editorial: At Brooklyn Bridge Park, the rich get richer

State planners have put out new renderings for the proposed Brooklyn Bridge Park waterfront condo and open space development along the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO coastline. The new building on the right of the rendering is a hotel.
The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Supporters are wildly hailing a deal between the Bloomberg Administration and state lawmakers representing Brooklyn Heights to generate the maintenance budget for Brooklyn Bridge Park by siphoning off future tax revenue from the sale of buildings owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

We had the opposite reaction.

The deal calls for more than one million square feet of manufacturing land to be rezoned to the far more lucrative residential use. Such a rezoning would raise the value of the land by a factor of at least 10. The city would then use the resulting taxes on the newly valuable properties to fund the $16-million maintenance of the park.

The deal is being praised because it promises to raise enough revenue to eliminate the Bloomberg Administra­tion’s prior plan, which called for new luxury housing inside the footprint of park at Atlantic Avenue.

Yes, the new deal is better than the old one. Indeed, we’ve long argued that any housing inside the park renders the 1.3-mile strip of waterfront land not a “park” at all, but a waterfront development with a nice open space component.

But the new deal is still flawed for several reasons:

• At the stroke of a pen, the rezoning would create millions — perhaps $1 billion, according to our report on this week’s page one — of new wealth for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a religious order that has does not pay taxes. We are not persuaded that the Watchtower Society deserves this payday, courtesy of city residents.

• The deal allows Brooklyn Heights residents to get the park of their dreams yet sacrifice nothing. Indeed, the just-inked arrangement is at least the third attempt by park planners to fund their maintenance budget. Two prior schemes — diverting a small portion of local residents’ increased property taxes or creating a “Park Improvement” tax on local property owners — were dead on arrival because both would have forced the well-to-do to pay for the park by parting with a portion of their supposedly hard-earned cash. The selfishness of some residents continues to astound us.

• The deal robs the city treasury of millions of dollars that would normally be set aside for the broad range of services currently provided — to a decreasing degree of satisfaction, by the way — by the city. So instead of extra hours at a library in Brownsville or a new beat cop in East New York, the city is choosing to give Brooklyn’s already richest neighborhood another amenity: a world-class park.

• Most important, the new funding deal enshrines as city policy the original sin of Brooklyn Bridge Park, namely that the ever-swelling maintenance budget must be generated by the park itself. We have long argued that the park should be treated like any normal city park; that its construction and maintenance should be part of the regular budgetary process, subject to evaluation and debate over where resources should be allocated. By creating a separate funding mechanism, the city has essentially told Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO that they don’t need to worry about their park.

After all, in Bloomberg’s New York, worrying about declining city services is something best done by the poor and less-fortunate — or hadn’t you heard?

Reader poll

Do you agree with The Brooklyn Paper's editorial board? Take our poll:

Updated 5:25 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

matt from IL says:
I have followed this story fro the beginning, it seems to me that the WT has been influential in making the neighborhood a clean place. I have been there and have toured their facilities, perhaps the writer should do some research and maybe take the tour him/herself.
Aug. 11, 2011, 7:38 am
Daniel from God's Kingdom says:
The Watchtower Jehovah's Witnesses cult controlled my family financially since 1951 and helped to make 4 generations of Haszard's poor.-Daniel
Aug. 11, 2011, 7:53 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
When the Rich don't get richer, it's called a DEPRESSION.

Ever get a job from a poor man?
Aug. 11, 2011, 9:44 am
Bill from Boerum Hill says:
Right on. Brooklyn Papers always gets it right on this "park".By the way, add the fact that no matter how you do the numbers, there WILL be more housing inside a "park's" borders - Squadron gave away the DUMBO property, gave up on Pier 1 housing and there is NO WAY the numbers work out to prevent housing on Pier 6. So much for his deal with Mighty Mike. Makes Squadron the big dope he is.
Aug. 11, 2011, 10:39 am
david metcalf from england says:
paragraph 5 of this article shows the absolute prejudice of the writer,who has nothing posative to say about hard working people. who turned this area around over the past 40 years! long live the freedom to be different from the crowd in the land of free and home of the brave j.w.
Aug. 11, 2011, 12:34 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
So the brooklyn paper doesn't support the park and its funding yet it supports the FCR Atlantic yards that costs the tax-papers hundreds of million dollars is funded by PILOTS and yet brings only 8 acres of parkland that will be thought of as exclusively the people who live there. I guess consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. the Pilots at Atlantic yards and the Arena robs the public of the same income. I don't particularly like these off the books way the government appropriates money but at least the Brooklyn paper should show some consistency.
Aug. 11, 2011, 2:08 pm
harriet from Brooklyn says:
I'm with Sid.
Aug. 11, 2011, 2:48 pm
buddy11201 from Brooklyn Heights says:
There you go again, Sid, the great apologist for private housing inside public parks. There was no need for housing inside this park to pay for it. Squadron lacked backbone and sold out his constituents. Levin (your wife's boss), Lander and the most pathetic Millman went merrily along. Brooklyn Paper is the only media group to get awards for their coverage of this issue, and kudos from nearly all Brooklynites who see this "deal" as a total sell out by the richest so that they can control the land without paying the man, and then robbling the rest of our city's services. Sweet deal.
Aug. 11, 2011, 2:49 pm
Mike Greene from Candor says:
If the city and developers had gotten their act together several years ago, Jehovah's Witnesses would have already sold the properties they were finished with some time ago.

I highly doubt any of these grumblers here would just give away their property for free after all the work they might have put into it.

Jehovah's Witnesses took properties that were about to cave in and repaired them. Then kept them in fine order until today. Why should they give them away after they paid for them in the first place?

If this deal is like the rest, it will fall through too and the Witnesses will still be stuck with the properties.
Aug. 11, 2011, 2:58 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
my views are not necessarily those of my wife's and they aren't run by Steve Levin.

so anytime the city contracts with Pilots it robs the city of money? or tax breaks or any of a myriad way the city decides to incentivize anything...

I want the park built, Its been under study/way for over 25 years(with many people attempting to take credit for it). It still was based on agreement that the Park should be self funded.

Every other way has been explored. Its time to build it and they will come. The naysayers-lawsuit bringers have had their say and lost. So far both polls that the Brooklyn paper has started are in favor of what was done...albeit a really small sample...over 70 percent on the first poll and a just over half based upon a yes or hell no question....
so make this a personal attack if you want but stick with the issue. Small people attack other people wives.
Aug. 11, 2011, 4:51 pm
Robin Morgan says:
Jehovah's Witnesses can document through many, many news articles praising their upkeep and dedication to Brooklyn Heights (and others) historic buildings. It's the safest neighborhood in NY. What windfall they receive through their own industriousness is not be the concern of others. The US Constitution gives them their legal tax rights. As for the politics involved, we have nothing to do with that and never get involved with politics.
Disaffected ex-Jw's were never made "poor" by the Watchtower Society; it would be a lie to say so. Anyone who knows Jehovah's Witnesses can say without any doubt, that JW's NEVER ask for contributions, do not pass the plate around, and discuss money only when absolutely necessary. An Accounts Report is posted on the Information Board of every Kingdom Hall in a effort to be as transparent as possible. Don't let haters influence you. Find out the facts for yourself.
Aug. 11, 2011, 8:36 pm
Robert says:
Well Danny or Daniel or whoever you are. A comment you left at 1:25 am to another article on the same subject mentioned 3 generations. Seven hours later and now you have 4 generations! Really sad all those generations (however many there are) continue to be "fleeced" by JW's. Maybe it is time to quit feeling sorry for yourself and take charge of your own life. Condemning the honest gain of others to excuse 4 generations of bad choices is pathetic.
Aug. 11, 2011, 9:31 pm
Lover of Jah from Patterson says:

Apostate Jehovah's Witnesses troll Robin C Morgan your real image before Friday 7-29-11 in the suit has been saved to file for Watchtower Society records.
Facebook and you tube too

Robin C Morgan is an apostate Jehovah's Witness similiar to Steve Klemetti and
They both usurp the Governing body with their counterfeit ideas of apostasy.They even count their field service time trolling.
Peace to all.
Aug. 11, 2011, 9:42 pm
Marion says:
Jehovah's Witnesses controversy in a nutshell:

Cult-like hard core apocalyptic fundy Watchtower is an 1870 splinter group from the William Miller *great disappointment* fallout.
They have kept followers on the edge of the seat and drained them dry after pinning all their hopes and dreams on the always just around the corner post armageddon *paradise".

They took everything from many followers including lots and lots of money.Now bloated with wealth... all they can do is stagger around and shoot critic messengers and say the Catholic church was worse with it's atrocities and exaggerate some of the few beneficial JW legacies.

They ripped off millions most who just grew old and died so can't say anything back now.
The A number one fear of the Watchtower is bad PR and lawsuits for fraud,just like Scientology same lawyers same spin doctors same shills same everything.
Aug. 11, 2011, 9:46 pm
Danny Haszard from Bangor Maine says:
Watchtower which has hogged up all that tax free Brooklyn property worth hundreds of millions is liquidating & 'cashing in on the kingdom'.

Aug. 12, 2011, 6:56 am
Jay says:
The Watchtower has upgraded the Brooklyn neighborhood from slum type warehouses to an environment pleasing to the eye and people's finer sensibilities.
Cashing in, as one "perennial Watchtower basher" puts it, is a joke. Maybe he would like to sell his home for the price he paid for it.
The cleanest streets and yards in the borough are around the Watchtower properties. I would bet that the crime rate there is the lowest also.
Just a case of "sour grapes" when one reads detractors comments.
Aug. 12, 2011, 9:25 am
David Brown from LES says:
The reality of the matter is the park will be funded by Condos in the Brooklyn Bridge Park, not by the sale of the Watchtower properties. Why? Because the Jehovah's Witnesses are not stupid. They will not sell until the time is right (Which is when they can get a higher price for them). At the same time everyone knows that major construction projects that are not well into development, have a good chance of not being completed as planned (See Willets Point & Atlantic Yards). From Mayor Bloomberg's point of view, he knows that this park will create major development opportunities in the future (See The High Line), which is why this project, along with Prospect Park is a major priority of the Administration.
Aug. 12, 2011, 9:50 am
Bob Stone from Brooklyn Heights says:
Great editorial. This is the Gersh I remember from 2005 till Murdoch. Unfortunately, the JW discussion, rather than the backroom political deal, dominates the comments. (e.g., how Dan Squadron became Marty Connor in less than three years.)

Gersh, thanks for your years of support of the community's non-privatizing, affordable park plan .

Aug. 13, 2011, 12:22 pm
Tal fan from Bk says:
What's Tal's take on this. Please chime in oh wise one.
Aug. 13, 2011, 12:29 pm
Frank from Furter says:
I think the editorial is nonsense. While everyone is entitled to their opinion no matter how wrong it is, I think the whole premise is wrong(as if some people who have read what I previously posted couldn't have guessed.

The McClaren Pool had protestors when they attempted to redo it. Its good that people with vested interest will be paying for the upkeep and not some anonymous budget money.

There is already housing in the Park. Its been there from day one its called 360 Furman Street-One Brooklyn Bridge Park.

One of the alternate ways suggested to pay for the park was admission charges. While I think schools using it for planned recreation on the fields should pay the amount of money collected will be miniscule.

The City is using city owned piers and upland to create a new park. They wanted an assured stream of money and they are using less than 10% of the land area to provide for that income. I was wrong before I said it was closer to 14%. I learned the land area schedule to be used is less.

But the Brooklyn Paper thinks its ok to use housing development right outside the parks current boundaries but not housing within the Park.

I know that some people have attached Senator Squadron and Assembly member Millman but I applaud them standing up to a small vocal and uncompromising minority for both lowering the size of one building and arranging for the possibility of a smaller development on Pier 6. No one loves the housing but there have no alternatives that have passed anything but a impossible dream. Retail development is not going to work, the retail in 360 Furman has been mostly vacant and the South Street seaport across the way has been a disaster, the new world trade center couldn't find a developer for the restaurant on top there at all. Marinas don't make money unless you allow them to do repairs and maintenance.

In Manhattan Battery Park City- a housing development pays for the Hudson River Park, Governors Island and a lot of the development downtown...and in general has been a good use of the money.

Compare this with the millions spent on Atlantic Yards for an almost purely housing development and almost no park,,,and surely no public park.

You are entitled to disagree but as this was pretty civil, I request the same courtesy.
Aug. 14, 2011, 4:58 pm
VoiceOfTruth from VilliamsBeyrg says:
the fat cats in BK heights and dumbo have a direct line to unlimited city money for their park at the expense of the taxpayers, while the rest of the city is facing cutbacks and cancellations and a dearth of recreational options.

But who cares about anyone but BK heights and dumbo and their crumb-bum residents, let's build them an all-weather bubble and a skating rink to go with their new park. Let everyone else suffer. bloomberg and his cronies are rewarding their wealthy pals, while hard working joes and lunchbucket charlies have to take their kids to play in parks that resemble run down parking lot or travel far away to dumbo where these ascot wearing types treat them like outsiders, or worse yet - an unpopulated island that serves no purpose 9 months out of the year.

End the crony regime of bloomjerk and his reward the rich policies.
Aug. 15, 2011, 2:41 pm
John from Bensonhurst says:
The writer sounds incredibly biased and bigoted. What difference does it make to HER who makes money from a property transaction? I mean, really ... if it were the Catholic Church, the YMCA or the Boy Scouts of America, would the author really care so passionately on this topic?

The market controls the pricing of property, and whoever owns it should most certainly have the right to sell it per the market's terms at any given time. The WT Society has owned much of this property since the turn of the 20th century. Of course, it is going to profit highly from its sale. Talk about a long term real estate investment! The fact that it can be converted to private residence as a boon to the community sure sounds like a WIN too.

I guess some people will find anything to complain about ... if WT hung on to the property and it remained tax exempt, this paper would sure be crying about it (as they always have) ... but now if they find a way to sell it and vacate the Heights (this paper's lifelong DREAM come true), there's a brand new set of reasons to complain?! I mean, really. Up until now, this paper would have claimed to be willing to pay any amount of money for the Society to leave. And now you moan because you are getting your wish.

Newsflash: you can't have it both ways!

I mean ... really?!
Aug. 22, 2011, 2:27 pm
Pietro from Slope. says:

Jehovahs' have a right to sell whenever and whatever, just like any owner.
But the expectation that the Park should
somehow: "pay for itself" I think is just bad policy.
Great Cities take care of their own parks.
Why the exception here?
May 30, 2012, 4:59 pm
Jack Lamar from Brooklyn Heights says:
I think people should educate themselves about the Watchtower Society from unbiased documented sources and not depend on hearsay. I recommend you visit YouTube and type in Watchtower NBC in the search bar and see an unbiased report about the Watchtower.

Aug. 4, 2012, 6:53 am

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: