Feds: Plans for Tobacco Warehouse Can Proceed

But Heights Association Still Pursues Lawsuits

By Dennis Holt
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK — The National Park Service on Monday issued a decision that, in essence, confirms that the Tobacco Warehouse here is not restricted to outdoor recreation and that plans to use it as a cultural and community center can continue to move forward.

The Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) and the New York Landmarks Conservancy on Jan. 18 had entered lawsuits in both federal and state courts claiming that the Tobacco Warehouse had been improperly removed, or “de-parked,” from Brooklyn Bridge Park. The lawsuits also said that its planned conversion for indoor use by St. Ann’s Warehouse, a performing arts organization, constituted a violation. A federal judge asked the National Park Service to review the issue.

In a three-page letter to the acting commissioner of the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) and to Jane McGroarty, president of the Heights Association, discussing in detail the historical record of the warehouse, Wayne Strum, acting chief of the Park Service’s state and local programs division, concluded: “This decision supersedes the decision contained in the [National Parks Service] December 12, 2008, letter and represents the final administrative determination of the Department of the Interior in this regard.”

Regarding some confusion as to whether the State Office of Parks and Recreation was unaware of other decisions that had been made, Strum wrote:

“OPRHP staff were apparently not aware that the plan for and ultimate uses of the [Tobacco Warehouse] and Empire Stores were ongoing at the highest levels of state and city government.” A judgment that would have permitted only outdoor recreation, Strum noted, was “a correctable mistake.”

Strum added: “The new record documents that the state never intended prior to the grant completion to commit to use the Tobacco Warehouse solely for public outdoor recreation.”

Decision Welcomed

Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park, welcomed the decision: “The National Park Service’s decision confirming that use of the Tobacco Warehouse is not restricted to outdoor recreation will allow for the preservation of this historic warehouse and reuse as a vibrant cultural and community venue.”

Jane McGroarty of the BHA responded with this statement: “The announcement from the National Park Service in the Tobacco Warehouse case should shock anyone committed to good government. It’s clear that the National Park Service — an agency charged with protecting our public parkland — has reneged on this duty and has yielded to political pressure from City Hall. Our lawsuit continues, and we will litigate vigorously so that these ‘back room’ deals do not rob the public of what is rightfully theirs.”

The courts will eventually have to render a decision regarding dismissal of the suits.

Henrik Krogius contributed to this report.

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