BHA Action Raises Questions

Review and Comment
Henrik Krogius, Editor
Brooklyn Heights Press & Cobble Hill News

The disturbingly strident response by the Brooklyn Heights Association to last week’s National Park Service ruling on the Tobacco Warehouse issue is discussed on this page by Dennis Holt. The further puzzle is how come the BHA failed to prepare its membership and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation for its intent to file these lawsuits to block the roofless warehouse’s conversion for use by St. Ann’s Warehouse. If the BHA feared the move might not be universally applauded, then the secrecy about its intent could not but inflame matters.

The decision to sue was apparently made as early as last July, even before requests went out for proposals for the conversion, but wasn’t revealed until the announcement of the actual filing of the suits. Were there perhaps some misgivings about adopting such a moralistic stance, imputing evil motives rather than serious differences of opinion regarding the prospective re-use of the Tobacco Warehouse? Was suing, despite possible second thoughts about so drastic an action, made simply too tempting by the availability of pro bono representation by a law firm only too happy to embarrass a city administration that now has jurisdiction over Brooklyn Bridge Park? (The firm earlier took on the case against the city’s planned expansion of the Brooklyn Detention Center, which never went to trial, and it now also represents the opponents of the two-way bike lane in Prospect Park.) Since the BHA wouldn’t need to commit funds for the legal service, and thus not need to solicit membership approval, did it simply seem better not to look this gift horse in the mouth?

For that matter, how many people were actually involved in the BHA decision?

It is fair to raise such questions in view of the BHA’s allegation of “back room deals” and “lies” and lack of transparency on the part of those working to develop Brooklyn Bridge Park – an endeavor the BHA has long supported. Little wonder that those spearheading the park project saw the lawsuits as a stab in the back.

But to look to the positive, consider the words of respected Heights resident Robert “Bo” Rodgers reported in this issue, that the St. Ann’s Warehouse plan “is a wonderful, wonderful use of that space,” and that, if this opportunity is blown, “there won’t be another opportunity as good to come along again.” The walls and their arched openings – all that remains of the Tobacco Warehouse – will after all be fully preserved under the conversion. Picture the refitted place as our own Globe Theater!

The Brooklyn Heights Association has an admirable history of doing good for its neighborhood, but its leadership councils could use fresh input.

150-Year-Old Beer

Last week’s issue of Norden, the Swedish-language Finnish weekly, informs me that the beer salvaged from a shipwreck some 150 years ago near the Åland Islands has been tasted. It was called drinkable but sour and not very bubbly. However, that’s not the end of it. Modern recovery techniques are being used in a Finnish laboratory to uncover the original taste. They’re looking into what kinds of yeast cells the beer has. A researcher says yeast wasn’t really understood back when that beer was brewed.

The old beer was said to be light in color and unexpectedly clear. If a recipe for the brew can be determined, there are apparently modern breweries ready to produce it. With Steve Hindy now expanding his Brooklyn Brewery by a factor of ten, might he want to try a line of this historic nectar?

Koch Bridge?

“The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

No further comment.

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