Battle of the bulkhead: Brooklyn Bridge Park hotel’s bar, machinery blocks view

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The ventilation machinery and planned bar on the roof of a new hotel in Brooklyn Bridge Park will block the beloved view from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, in violation of an agreement to keep it pristine, a civic group argues.

The influential Brooklyn Heights Association says the 30-foot bulkhead and under-construction saloon atop the Furman Street structure are clear violations of an eight-year-old agreement to keep the building under the overlook. The civic group griped about the blight on the view in a letter to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation last month, demanding and explanation and a remedy.

“We feel strongly that the primary responsibility for ensuring that the views the community fought hard to protect was, and remains, the primary responsibility of the BBPC and its predecesso­rs,” wrote Alexandra Bowie, president of the 104-year-old community group.

The agreement brokered by the Heights Association in 2006 is affirmed in the park’s General Project Plan, which describes the hotel, now called Pierhouse, as being approximately 100-feet tall. The building now exceeds that limit by approximately 30 feet because of the rooftop equipment and pub, to the chagrin of the Association, members of which love gazing out onto the Brooklyn Bridge and the skyline of the distant island of Manhattan.

“The bulkheads now rise high enough to block the view of stays and cables as well as the view of the Chrysler Building,” says a statement posted on the group’s website. “Our board and public are angered that the new buildings have seriously compromised that iconic, world class view.”

The group also points to a response to a public comment in the park’s Final Environmental Impact Statement that specifically pledges to keep the rooftop utilities out of sight.

“Any required parapet and mechanical equipment would be included in the proposed building envelope,” the document says, though it is unclear who from the city, state, or the park’s private administration penned the pledge.

As for the bar, in its letter to park administrators the Heights Association asked if removing it could shave feet off the top of the building, especially if it meant the elevator would not have to reach the roof.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation isn’t budging. It insists that the bar was always part of the plan, and that it has to have an elevator to the roof to be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

“The rooftop of the hotel will include an outdoor bar. An occupiable rooftop is a key component of the hotel program and has been part of the developer’s proposal from the outset,” park president Regina Myer wrote.

Park honchos also maintain that the height limit does not include the bulkhead, and that neighborhood activists knew that all along.

“It was made clear that BBP, based on consultation with Empire State Development Corporation, would permit rooftop mechanical equipment to exceed the 100-foot height limit provided that it fit the definition of a ‘Permitted Obstruction’ in the NYC Zoning resolution,” Myer wrote in response to the community group’s letter.

Myer points to a letter the Heights Association wrote in 2011 “explicitly acknowledging [the bulkhead being exempted from the height limit], with no mention of any previous agreements made with the BHA.”

“It is our understanding that one of the requirements of the RFP was that no scheme may penetrate the Scenic View plane or be higher than 100 feet exclusive of mechanical equipment,” wrote then-Heights-Association-president Jane McGroarty and then-parks-committee-chairman Donald Fraser.

Executive director Judy Stanton said that no matter what her organization said after the environmental impact statement was drawn up, the document is what should be regulating development in Brooklyn’s front yard.

“The spirit and language of the FEIS was very clear in its intent to preserve the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from midway along the Promenade,” Stanton said. “Nothing the BHA has ever said or done during the period between the FEIS and today should be misunderstood or construed as undermining that intent to preserve or even improve on that view that existed prior to the Pierhouse.”

A member of Stanton’s group summed up its stance this way in a 2005 reaction to the original environmental study:

“Please remember, there are views and then there are views,” Otis Pearsall wrote. “This is one of the world’s best. Let’s not nibble at it.”A Brooklyn College professor who writes about development said he is not sure what legal weight the final impact statement holds, but added that the real issue is the money and will to battle the deep-pocketed Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation in court.

“My experience has been that what matters is how much money and clout you have to make your case,” Jerome Krase said. “To some degree the legality becomes inventive.”

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Eddie R. from Heights says:
The path was set long ago. Pier 6 towers, condo's, hotel etc. Nothing that concerns the average resident is ever really of any concern. MONEY and GREED will alway win out. Just the facts of life. Example LICH worth 500 Mil sold for 240 Mil. Anyone smell a RAT..
Nov. 17, 2014, 12:15 pm
Justine Swartz from Brooklyn Heights says:
Brooklyn Heights Association BHA gives the green light to developers to build; then protests the building. BHA is now powerless and can only flap their lips in protesting the height of the Pierhouse.
History repeats itself. BHA has now given it's blessing to a real estate developer David Kramer of Hudson companies to destroy our current library and erect a condominium in the footprint of Cadman Plaza Library. Mr. Kramer is keeping secret the architectural designs when questioned at the Borohall CAC meeting in Oct. 2014.
One of the RFP plans Mr. Kramer admits to considering is 55 Floors, ( half the height of the World Trade Center).
BHA ignores it's Mission Statement decrying
Tall Buildings to be built on the outskirt perimeter of the Landmark Brooklyn Heights area.

Nov. 18, 2014, 11:21 am
Mike from Da HEIGHTS! says:
Joan Millman may be gone, but Steve Levin and Dan Squadron should either move heaven and earth to preserve that view or face recall elections!
Nov. 18, 2014, 12:06 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
Unless they bring down the height, start a boycott of the hotel and get everyone involved. The middle class gave support, and the developer took even more. We need to vote in politicians in the future that will enforce commumity agreements agreements, i.e. Altantic Yards, LICH, Yankee Stadium, etc. Our city government seems to serve the rich above everyone else. Even the upper middle class Bklyn Heights people get burned nowadays.
Nov. 18, 2014, 2:15 pm
marsha rimler from brooklyn heights says:
The BHA thinks they are above being fooled. guess what.. they are not..Its their entitlement and arrogance. Stop the library destruction plan... NOW
before it is built.. its an air and lab grab from the citizens to Mr. Kramer who makes lots of $. The BPL is just the wrapping on the gift to Mr. Kramer
Nov. 18, 2014, 4:25 pm
carola copland from downtown bk says:
Surprise, surprise! BHA frauds get a little of their own medicine, as if ** EVERYONE ** didn't see this from the start.
Nov. 18, 2014, 5:39 pm
Jonathan from Brooklyn Heights says:
Here's a suggestion:

Under threat of lawsuit Pierhouse shall either (a) demolish the illegal 30-foot addition or (b) increase its PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) contribution to the park by 30 percent. (A pittance actually—given the sweetheart deal they currently enjoy.)

The extra revenue would further undermine BBPC's bogus financial arguments for the egregious skyscrapers planned for Pier 6 uplands...
Nov. 18, 2014, 5:45 pm
Cindy from Heights says:
So let's understand this: The very same group (Heights Association) who sold out their neighbors to the north and south by advocating for highrise housing inside a public park at the park's entrances (esp at Pier 6 where most Brooklynites enter the park) now are complaining that their 2006 back room deal with the BBP Dev Corp didn't stick? Make a deal with the devil, against your own neighbors, and see how it feels Heights Association, Donald Fraser and others who capitulated on park housing from the get-go. Time to join the current law suit, no?
Nov. 20, 2014, 11:07 am
Sickening from BB park says:
You guys need to file an injunction tp stop the building

Clearly there is fraud here at worst, a breach of good faith and fair dealing, and obviously no meeting of the minds to form a contract-

Just file
Nov. 22, 2014, 6:18 pm

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