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Grass dismissed: City abandons deal with developer of Willoughby Square Park and garage

Not happening: The city's deal with the developer it in 2013 tapped to build Willoughby Square Park and the parking garage beneath it — a project announced in 2004 — is officially dead.
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Willoughby Square Park is officially sunk!

A plan hatched more than a decade ago to build a new green space above a high-tech parking facility on Willoughby Street Downtown is officially dead, according to city officials, who on Wednesday said they failed to close the deal with the developer they chose for the job back in 2013.

“Following several years of working in good faith, we are disappointed that the developer did not meet critical closing conditions on the Willoughby Square project,” said a spokesman for the Economic Development Corporation, the agency overseeing the project.

Agency leaders blamed their decision on the developer’s inability to secure financing and resolve other business issues, according to a letter they sent to the builder’s attorney today.

Last October, Economic Development Corporation bigwigs announced they planned to finally break ground on the subterranean, vending-machine-style parking lot and park above it this month, more than 15 years after the city promised to create the green space in exchange for upzoning much of Downtown — and a decade after officials booted some residents out of their area homes to raze the residences, some of which were rent-stabilized, while others were believed to once be stops on the Underground Railroad network that ushered slaves to freedom during the first half of the 19th century.

The news of the deal’s collapse comes just weeks after the local Community Board 2 shared an internal memo suggesting the city was looking to sever ties with the project’s chosen builder, Long Island–based American Development Group, and issue a new bid for the job.

That memo came as a surprise to American Development Group’s head Perry Finkleman, who told this newspaper he still expected to close the deal by the end of January despite officials’ apparent readiness to abandon his firm.

But the city memo wasn’t the first sign that suggested the long-in-the-works project could collapse.

Rumors started swirling last March that Finkleman lacked the cash to move the project forward, leading him to downsize the underground garage that would have automatically parked cars using a system of light sensors and other technology from 700 to 467 spots, and three to two levels, which cut the project’s budget from roughly $97 to $82 million, he previously told this newspaper.

The failure to seal the deal on Willoughby Square Park after all this time is devastating to the community, particularly those residents kicked out of their homes to make way for construction, according to a local pol.

“The entire process has been unacceptable to myself and the greater Downtown community, this is a clear example of how not to do public planning,” said Downtown Councilman Stephen Levin, who took office nearly a decade ago, well after the city announced the Willoughby Square Park and garage project. “I realize it’s complicated because of the underground parking, but it shouldn’t be that complicated to build a park on city-owned land. It’s totally unacceptable, there’s no excuse.”

But starting from scratch presents an opportunity to even further reduce the size of the garage, according to Levin, who said he is willing to consider a facility with even less spots after some critics argued the city should not cater to motorists in such a public-transit-rich neighborhood — especially given the push to make much of Brooklyn more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly in the years since the project was conceived.

“I’m all in favor of decreasing parking requirements, I don’t think we should be going off 2004 assumptions, it’s 2019,” Levin said. “Ultimately this park has to get done. I don’t want to allocate blame, I want to figure out a way forward.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:38 pm, January 30, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Sid from Boerum Hill says:
If the city can afford 100 million for health care per year, they should be able to build this park.
Jan. 30, 2:38 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
How about fixing the parks that area already exist in that area such as Cadman Plaza or even Brooklyn Bridge Park, which was done more recently, rather than spending money to make another one?
Jan. 30, 7:53 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
How about fixing the parks that area already exist in that area such as Cadman Plaza or even Brooklyn Bridge Park, which was done more recently, rather than spending money to make another one?
Jan. 30, 7:53 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
Money has been appropriated to fix Cadman park including the war memorial. Brooklyn Bridge Park needs more money? They have been spending it every year and its self sufficient anyway. This park was part of the downtown plan and it was promised as open space.
Jan. 30, 8:14 pm
Francis from Atlantic Ave says:
Maybe take Regina Meyers salary and fire the EDC staff like James Pachett the head to support the cause. A spokesperson for EDC??? James Patchett is the same guy who allowed the Rivington House deed to be changed when he was at the Mayors office. It's amazing how he was not fired.
Jan. 30, 9:40 pm
Cat1 says:
Francis from Atlantic Ave., I did not know that about James Patchett. It *is* amazing that he was not fired. I am not even sure how he was able to do that in the first place on his 'own.'
Jan. 31, 10:26 am
Posturing from New York City says:
Posturing is all this is. New York City couldn't milk the guy into all their abnormal conditions they call "policy" which are unlike anything anyone does in a normal contract. So now they call it "Bad Faith" which is a legal term used to smear someone without a solid basis for doing so, it's like calling someone "the bad guy". The city should stop publicly smearing people to make themselves look good as no one has dirtier hands than New York City - and it's just unfair and unprofessional for government to do name calling. Their our government and should act like it.
Jan. 31, 12:12 pm
karl from downtown says:
Its easy for Levin to blame others... He has been in office for much of this project and what has he done.. nothing. Remember he can only blame the city for so much... you have now heard it all. He needs to continue to be a lap dog for the mayor so that he can get a big pay day when he leaves office after this term.
Jan. 31, 1:58 pm
Clawback from Downtown Brooklyn says:
ADG tore down affordable rental units and left an eyesore for residents for a decade while taking taxpayer $ only to deliver nothing. Every cent should be clawed back and they should be banned from bidding on future projects. They have a terrible track record and have been sued for construction problems at L Loft, 1610 Dekalb, and Park Union. City should sue Finkleman into the ground and then build a nice enough park that he can sleep on the benches when it warms up.
Jan. 31, 2:47 pm
TOM from Sunset Park says:
The City must get our money back.
Jan. 31, 4:44 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Cancel the BQE, then cancel the parking garage because people won't be driving downtown anyway.
Jan. 31, 6:26 pm
kiera from clinton hill says:
De Blasio is spending more than $10 million for a pedesteian plaza near my house and spent $5 million on the pedestrian plaza in Ft Green.
Jan. 31, 9:06 pm
resident from brooklyn says:
build the park, but don't built the parking. totally unnecessary in a place surrounded by transit!
Feb. 1, 11:21 am
Stokeley from Ft Greene says:
I remenber when Letisha James lead the vote in City Counsel to destroy the Underground Railroad houses on Duffield St so they could build the parking lot.
Feb. 3, 12:39 pm
Mike from Prospect Heights says:
Great opportunity to ditch the garage and just build a park. Creating parks is an important government function. Providing parking garages isn't.
Feb. 3, 7:39 pm
T-Bone from DoBro says:
Build the park - without the parking. This is the most transit dense neighborhood in the city. The new apartment buildings already have vacant mandatory garages. Also, the traffic on Willoughby is a nightmare daily and backed up past Flatbush Especially with a limited street grid in the area, it's not a place you want to encourage more cars. Plus, all the government workers in the area will just continue their placard abuse and not use a garage anyway
Feb. 4, 4:45 pm
Ann from Bay Ridge says:
This whole thing stinks. My kids went to elementary school near there and I'll never forget the morning of the huge fire that conveniently burned the buildings in the area slated to become Metrotech Center. Then there was the desperate protracted fight of residents to keep their homes, including those that were part of the Underground Railroad, when the city re-zoned to benefit the almighty developers. NYC: AFTER ALL THIS-BUILD THE PARK. WE HAVN'T FORGOTTEN YOUR PROMISE.
Feb. 8, 12:21 am
Urban Mole from Brooklyn NY says:
From the words of the new illustrious progressive radical left economic genius NYS assemblywomen AOC on GCC: How do you pay for anything- you just pay for it. So why could they not just pay it.
Feb. 11, 10:28 am

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