Times Covers Tobacco Warehouse Saga

Brooklyn Broadside
By Dennis Holt
Senior Editor

on Friday, June 3, turned its editorial attention and creative use of photography on the almost mysterious saga of the future of the Tobacco Warehouse as part of Brooklyn Bridge Park. The planned re-use of the shell of the building has been held up by a lawsuit on a technicality of the legal process that was used to include transfer of the warehouse and the much larger Empire Stores to the new park. That case is still pending.

Observers of park planning will remember that the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation called for a Request for Proposals for re-use ideas for the warehouse which has no roof. A series of public meetings were held and the decision was made on a 99 year lease to let the St. Ann’s Warehouse renovate and re-use the building.

St Ann’s plan includes a 10,250 square foot theater, a 2,100 square foot community hall, and a 7,000 square foot public garden. Some of the building will still be roofless to show views of the nearby Brooklyn Bridge.

For most people, two situations seemed to merge: St. Ann’s needs new space and wants to stay in DUMBO and park planners have always conceived of bringing the warehouse into new use as part of the new park.

The report by Patrick Healy faithfully captures what is at stake, what the issues are and what could happen.

Statements by the parties appear in the Times story that were not made publicly when the law suit was filed. (The Brooklyn Heights Association is the lead plantiff).

Susan Feldman, artistic director of St Ann’s is quoted as saying that “Our vision was to turn the Brooklyn waterfront into a cultural center by transforming the Tobacco Warehouse into both a theater and a public arts space.”

For the first time, the plantiffs indicate that there is more at issue than a legal technicality. Reporter Healy writes, “At the same time, the groups wanted to maintain the Tobacco Warehouse as the kind of site that has featured photo and art exhibitions, hip hop and food festivals, and even a memorable Macbeth presented by St. Ann’s in 2008.”

Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation said this in the Times story: St. Ann’s proposal “was far and away the most exciting we received, and had so many opportunities for neighborhood groups and arts organizations to continue using the space.”

The Times story did not take note of the many resignations the law suit led to by members of the Brooklyn Heights Association. Nor did it report that the much larger Empire Stores, expected to become a revenue source for park operations, is also impacted by the law suit.

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