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High-rise drama: Rising Pier 6 towers rile critics awaiting judge’s verdict

Going up: The 15-story high-rise at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park is nearly 10 floors high after about six months of construction, which followed a judge’s July decision allowing contractors to build as long as their work could be “undone.”
Brooklyn Paper
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The proof is in the building.

The developers of two polarizing towers at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 are so sure they’ve won their court battle over the legality of the yet-to-be-approved high-rises at the foot of Atlantic Avenue that they’ve already dug deep into their pockets to construct nearly 10 stories of a 15-story building, critics said.

“If you were in their shoes, would you be spending millions if you thought you weren’t going to win?” said Peter Bray, head of the Brooklyn Heights Association, which sued the park’s honchos in July 2016 after developers RAL Development Services and Oliver’s Realty Group filed plans for the 15 and 28-story buildings, claiming the towers — one of which would contain 100 units of so-called affordable housing — violate Brooklyn Bridge Park’s governing document, the 2006 General Project Plan, which permits development within the green space only to generate revenue needed by the park.

But meadow attorneys repeatedly denied that charge before the benches of Justice Carmen Victoria St. George and her predecessor Justice Lucy Billings, arguing the high-rises will bring in money the cash-strapped park needs to fix the timber piles that support Pier 6, which is being devoured by wood-eating crustaceans.

In July, the developers filed paperwork to begin construction amid the ongoing legal battle, and Billings ruled that month that work on the high-rises could proceed as long as whatever went up could be “undone,” before being removed from the case in August after four months of arguments in order to oversee asbestos litigation, she said at the time.

And not long after workers broke ground on the site this summer, some locals complained to this newspaper that noise from the job scared youngsters who frequent a nearby playground.

Now, six months after construction began and nearly two months after St. George heard litigants’ final arguments, the 15-story tower that contains the below-market-rate units is nearly 10-floors high, and contractors are putting the finishing touches on its 28-story neighbor’s basement, workers at the site told this reporter on Tuesday.

One hard-hat said that the framework of the shorter high-rise containing the so-called affordable units — a major point of contention that St. George even suggested developers scrap in an attempt to broker a compromise — would be completed in about two weeks, and that the skeleton of the 28-story building would be finished sometime this spring.

But Brooklyn Bridge Park won’t lose any cash from its allegedly measly coffers if St. George decides the towers must face the wrecking ball, according to a meadow spokesman, who said that only the developers will forfeit funds used toward construction if the judge rules against the project.

A rep for the builders said they are merely following Billings’ July decision.

“We are acting in good faith under the terms of the ground lease and the merits of the arguments previously made in court, and will continue to act accordingly as we progress toward providing the much-needed affordable-housing component and revenue-producing housing for the park and city,” said Eric Waters, spokesman for RAL Development Services.

Another critic slammed the developers for acting so brazenly while St. George continues to deliberate over her verdict, which some activists claim could lay the path for more private development in public parks across the United States if it allows the towers’ construction.

“It is disturbing how much they have put into the ground and into the air, despite the fact that the judge has not come through with her decision,” said Judi Francis, the president of advocacy group the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:50 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Billy from Sunset Park says:
A developer would NEVER risk millions of dollars in investment dollars unless they were very confident that they would prevail.

The question is, of course, why are they so confident? Are they connected? Do they have separate assurances from the city that there will be an intervention should the court rule against them? Or are they simply foolish?
Jan. 10, 1:28 pm
Judi Francis from Cobble Hill says:
Indeed, Bill. It’s the pay to play deBlasio administration. Recall this developer gave substantial “ donations” to the now shuttered Campaign for One New York days before “ winning” the RFP for these totally unnecesary towers - one of which completely violates the laws guiding the development in the first place ( housing inside a public park for financial need) and the other unnecessary for the now grossly overfunded Park.
Jan. 10, 2 pm
NN from Boerum Hill says:
I think it's just awful that Peter Bray and the Brooklyn Heights Association are fighting against affordable housing. I'm glad the project is moving forward and I hope the lawsuit gets thrown out.
Jan. 10, 4:07 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Hearing this almost reminds me of the Atlantic Yards, which also involved construction going on even despite the lawsuits going against it.
Jan. 10, 6:50 pm
Jason from Brooklyn heights says:
Judi Francis is a complete joke and has defamed most of us true Brooklyn heights residents. The park clear needs these buildings if it's going to be "self sustainable" and she and her cronies would gladly be the sole reason our beloved park would be deficient of funding. They're fighting against this project for very selfish reasons! NIMBYism at its finest.
Jan. 10, 11:19 pm
Vanessa from Brooklyn says:
It's a cynical move to use the the rhetoric of "affordable housing" and "nimbyism" " to defend the exploitation and destruction of the green space of a park that is supposed to provide the growing population/families of Brooklyn/NYC with a peaceful respite from the noise, congestion, and oppressiveness of super- sized buildings and commercial development. The children from All of Brooklyn deserve to have their much needed access to green space protected against exploitation, greed, and corruption.
Jan. 11, 8:20 am
Rebecca from Brooklyn Heights says:
Rising water is a direct result of unsustainable growth.
Jan. 11, 10:36 am
Rebecca from Brooklyn Heights says:
At least gentrification results in smaller families.
Jan. 11, 10:38 am
Rebecca from Brooklyn Heights says:
Except it's becoming freakishly fashionable to have families of three children or more, as though that nuclear number of 2.5 didn't signify dependence on ...
Jan. 11, 10:49 am
Lucy from Fort Greene says:
It was proven that the park has enough funds without these two high-rises that are taking up valuable park land. The population in the area is growing and LICH hasn't even been built out yet. So irresponsible to take away precious green space for more mostly high-end housing. The "affordable" housing is a gimmick thrown in late in the game so people could turn to it as an excuse to take away park land. It is at the highest end of the affordable brackets and does nothing for people who are being thrown out of their homes due to gentrification.
Jan. 11, 11:12 am
WT resident from Brooklyn Heights says:
The Park promised the community one thing and has yet again delivered another. Towers were supposed to be built solely to fund the park. Substituting one social good (affordable housing for a handful of very lucky higher income city workers) for another (park space for all) was never part of the GPP. While affordable housing is important, green space and a gateway to the Park is more important in my view --- the park, is afterall, a park! Finally DeBlasio himself said the towers are too tall. This is a travesty and good for the BHA fighting it
Jan. 11, 12:03 pm
Kurt from Cobble Hill says:
Another example of poverty pimping via affordable housing. Classic de Blasio. The only reason the builders are throwing in an "affordable unit" is so they can build their luxury towers higher. Poor people are highly lucrative to the Progressive rich.
Jan. 11, 1:47 pm
Ace from Mapleton says:
"what do you do?"

"I serve the rich"

"me too"
Jan. 11, 2:16 pm
MIchelle from Brooklyn says:
Kids from Brooklyn are no less deserving of a real park with grass and blue skies than children anywhere else in the city and country. KIds living in Brooklyn should not have their park turned into a complex for high rise buildings. Those who can afford to send their kids to summer camps and take them on vacation may not get how wrong those buildings are. But the park is all most of us from Brooklyn have in the summer. Destroying a real park for high rise buildings is unjust to the people who live, work, and breath here.
Jan. 11, 2:26 pm
Lucy from Park Slope says:
It's really a disservice to readers that this newspaper continues to write stories that are really nothing more than vehicles for Judi Francis to make one of her wild-eyed complaints. The Brooklyn Paper's formula for a winning story seems to be: clownish, belligerent Francis whining old rehash = front page news. Come on Vince & co - you know you can do a better job of providing a resource for the public.
Jan. 11, 2:55 pm
James from Fort Greene says:
The green space of the park is a public resource. And the public has a right to know that this resource is being destroyed and whose self-interests are being served by this.
Jan. 11, 4:16 pm
Sara from Brooklyn Heights says:
The construction of high rises in the park is making a mockery of justice, the mission of the park, and the Brooklyn communities the park was supposed to serve. How can 10 floors already be built when the court has not even made a decision on the case? Our public officials need to be held accountable for this travesty of justice.
Jan. 11, 8:54 pm
Adamben from Bedstuy says:
So much for democracy!
Jan. 12, 1:32 pm
Gregory Hubbard from I stay with a friend in Brooklyn says:
This decision is very, very strange.

As a Judge, why would you allow construction to proceed if you actually intended to decide against further construction? Allowing the developer to move forward as long as the work can be 'UNDONE' is a grotesquely silly decision. Once built, what can be undone?

Wouldn't a final decision against the tower open the city to a hardship lawsuit as a result of allowing the construction to proceed?

What surprises me is there seems to be no estimate of how much the Brooklyn Bride Park needs for repairs and maintenance, what funds these towers will actually generate for the park, and how many affordable units are guaranteed, vs. how many were promised.

As already stated, this is very suspicious behavior on the part of the judge, leading as it already has, to charges of corruption or political influence. Whether or not stopping this tower is a good idea, this should have been a straightforward decision, not one to mull over while floor after floor piles up.
Jan. 12, 7:16 pm
Emily from Brooklyn Heights says:
Some Brooklyn Heights residents have been notified that weekend construction work on the two towers has been scheduled for some ridiculous hours like from 6am to midnight on an upcoming Saturday.
12 floors are now erected, with two more floors built in the past two days...this is disturbing. Is it a race between the developer and the judge?
Jan. 12, 10:06 pm
John B. from Brooklyn Heights says:
Thank goodness for Judi Francis. She has been right on this park for over a decade. I , for one, am very grateful for her advocacy for the park. And yes, we deserve one here, too. Many - I think probably the vast majority of Heights residents - do not have country homes and depend on this park for recreation and play areas for our kids. The last thing we need here, or anywhere, is the destruction of park lands for another housing tower no matter who it serves. It is, like one person said, trickery and very cynical to have one of them be "affordable" which I have also heard it won't even really be that.
Jan. 13, 10:06 am
Humpleton Buhtt from Canarsie says:
All of these hipsters are against it because they're afraid it's going to disturb their stupid park. Who cares? They're all moving to LA eventually anyway.
Jan. 13, 7:01 pm
Melissa from Brooklyn Heights says:
I took a walk through the park today near the construction site for the towers and was shocked by how it looked dangerously close to where small children play in areas obviously created for them (sandboxes, jungle gym, etc). I don't understand how anyone in their right mind could allow this kind of construction so close to these play areas. What is happening down there looks insane and dangerous.
Jan. 13, 10:36 pm
FJ from a different perspective says:
Whuzzamattah? Reversing the order of the names and changing the spelling was too subtle for all y'all?
Jan. 16, 11:18 am

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