B’Bridge Park honchos, Heights Association return to court to argue Pier 6 case

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The legal battle over the fate of the lawn has begun.

A lawsuit over two polarizing towers at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park returned to court on Wednesday, a month after settlement talks between the Brooklyn Heights Association and park honchos failed. The two-hour hearing starred the civic group’s attorney, who spent most of the time arguing its case that green space officials violated their promise to build only as much housing as needed to fund the park’s upkeep.

“They have violated their commitment over and over again,” Richard Ziegler said before the standing-room-only crowd.

The neighborhood group alleges that the park is flush with cash and its officials are breaching an agreement to build just enough private housing required to pay for maintenance. But meadow leaders say they need the money from the two high-rises at the foot of Atlantic Avenue to pay for upkeep of the timber piles that support the East River pier, which are being devoured by wood eating crustaceans.

Justice Lucy Billings said she was not convinced that the agreement — the 2006 General Project Plan — mandated the park only build the bare minimum to sustain upkeep, arguing that the language in the document, which states “intention to build only what is necessary,” walked a fine legal line.

“It doesn’t appear to me to impose an obligation,” she said.

Ziegler argued the document’s context and purpose — to spell out the goals of the park — makes it binding, and repeatedly stated the agreement must be considered in its entirety.

He first presented his arguments to Billings in April, which were followed by a series of closed-door meetings in the judge’s chambers in an attempt to find a solution both sides could live with. But those sessions did not result in a compromise, and the litigants must now make their case before the bench.

Wednesday’s proceedings covered several of the cases in the Heights Association’s 91-page suit, including the claim that the park’s board of directors did not have full knowledge of the green space’s financials when it voted to approve the two towers last June, because the Department of Finance’s predictions undervalued the revenue that existing park properties would produce. Billings asked several questions about findings from the Heights Association’s hired independent financial expert, who claimed the park will have $300 million more in its coffers than the finance department estimated in its report.

The project also calls for a 15-story residential building that will include below-market-rate units, which Ziegler claimed do not promote the park’s financial stability because they do not generate revenue.

And the lawsuit alleges that the park broke its own rules in selecting RAL Companies and Oliver’s Realty Group to build the towers, which lawyers for the park and the developers conceded to on Wednesday, admitting the developers did not file the proper paperwork with the city before they were chosen — an admission that activists are calling a big win.

“I think we scored some major victories,” said Judi Francis, president of advocacy group the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund. “We’re pleased she’s asking tough questions, we’re going to listen carefully when she questions the other side as well.”

The case lies in Billings’s hands, and she will eventually have to decide whether or not the park is violating its agreement by building the towers at Pier 6.

Both sides will get another chance to argue before her in July.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 5:58 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Joe from Brooklyn Heights says:
Good job, park advocates! Amazing that the judge at first didn't seem to realize that this "project" is to support a PARK, and housing inside it, the ugly way to pay for it. The Park no longer needs the money from these towers (which the Park and Mayor both have admitted), then park users deserve those 3 PARK ACRES BACK without any more housing!
June 9, 2017, 12:22 pm
fakcheker says:
Uhm, no, Joe, the park hasn't admitted that it doesn't need the money from the Pier 6 development, which is why they are in court.
June 9, 2017, 2:40 pm
Say what from DUMBO says:
Regina Meyer made this agreement and then didn't want to deal with the controversy and advocates, then got hired for the Brooklyn Partnership.
June 9, 2017, 10:28 pm
Andrew Porter from Brooklyn Heights says:
As I understand it, the old wooden pilings have in some cases been treated and then wrapped, killing the marine borers, sealing them from further infestation. Other pilings have been replaced by concrete ones, which do not get eaten.

BBP bases all their financial estimates on the bad old days of the Great Recession. Meanwhile, the strength of the property market has increased greatly, and tax revenues likewise.
June 10, 2017, 1:05 pm
Frank from Furter says:
As I understand it the wooden piling were wrapped in concrete but it was later discovered that it didn't protect from wood worms and the concrete becomes weak and over the years will need to be continually replaced an expensive and difficult process. This is considered maintenance. I personally thought it should be a capital expenditure...split between the state and the city but the state has walked away from most of that responsibility. The city's choice is to take it from other capital park projects or make bbp pay for it. The wrapping was done by the port authority who used to be responsible for the piers. But the agreement which turned the piers over holds the PA harmless. I believe the term for what happens to the piers is called scouring caused by the tidal conditions and the particulates in the water time in the Corp of Engineer's.
June 11, 2017, 12:43 am
Joe (2) from Brooklyn Heights says:
Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! these dummies at the BHA could get lots of actual improvements for the park (pop-up pool forever, to name one) but they'd rather fight over a spot of land that is now a dog run. Thanks a lot!
June 11, 2017, 2:03 pm
W.R. from Brooklyn Heights says:
The Park has repeatedly violated its commitments to build the minimum amount of housing necessary to fund the park and has dealt with the community in bad faith from the start (going through the motions of the community hearing and then ignoring it all, not providing the CAC a budget, overbuilding Pierhouses etc etc.). These quasi govt entities lack the transparency and accountability of a govt organization and yet are far more immune to challenge than a commercial enterprise. The EDCs are essentially government funded giveaways to developers and must be stopped.
June 12, 2017, 12:15 pm
NotaNIMBY from Columbia St says:
To be clear folks, the parcels of land we are talking about may be within the lines of BBP, but they are not currently park space or a dog run. Let's stop being short sighted here....while the real estate market is rather good, we need to remind ourselves of the lessons of the last decade. If we don't allow a buffer for contingencies in the operating budget, we run an awful risk of not having money when the park needs upkeep. Consider the slippery slope of that possibility....
June 12, 2017, 12:51 pm
Birdy from Brooklyn says:
I can't help wondering if the real complaint in the litigation is more related to the below market community potentially moving into their rich nabe than being against building on unused space in a park that has no other plans for such space.
June 12, 2017, 1:03 pm
Will from Brooklyn from Prospect Heights says:
This lawsuit is all about rich people in the One Brooklyn Bridge Park condominium worried about losing their views. And the usual Brooklyn Heights NIMBYs who don't want anything built anywhere, ever. These hypocrites don't care about the park at all. Everyone else should be glad that the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation is ensuring that the park has the financial means to maintain this beautiful--but expensive to maintain--park.
June 12, 2017, 2:21 pm
Older from Brooklyn says:
I want to know how the SEQRA/school capacity argument went.
June 12, 2017, 7:20 pm
Bill from Heights says:
The park has sufficient funds - a $300 million dollar surplus AFTER they complete the expensive epoxy efforts on all piles - so they do not need more housing inside its borders. The issue is whether all the pier piles need to be done now, but even if that is decided, they still have more money than is ever needed in this gold plated park - again, more than $300 million. The great irony is that with all the new development in the area, no new park lands are planned. These last acres serve us, not dogs (though when are dogs not worthy companions in need of park lands?) or simply "rich people" as has been suggested. Advocacy for park lands- that is the battle here- and the last remaining acres are now
at stake.
June 13, 2017, 10:45 am

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