Tobacco Warehouse: Opportunity Destroyed

By Dennis Holt
Senior Editor

As Alice put it in her Wonderland adventures, “Everything’s got a moral, if you can only find it.”

This observer, and many others, have not been able to find a moral in the bizarre story about the Tobacco Warehouse. Almost no one can really comprehend what’s happening with this development. In major accounts in both the The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, there was a tone of “what’s really going on” by both reporters.

Here is the perplexity: does the judge’s decision mean that the federal government cannot ever negotiate with the city or state of New York about transfer of ownership of both the Tobacco warehouse and the Empire Stores?.

If this is true, it means that a ruin of a building and the bulk of the Empire Stores can never be efficiently re-used. This is so preposterous as to be unbelievable.

If it is not true, then some process must begin so that a reasonable solution is reached. If there has to be a series of new public meetings, get started on it and end this nonsense.

The delay in a logical process has already had a price. Whatever process that is possible will not be of value to St. Ann’s Warehouse. This performance arts group has run out of time. There are reports that its leadership has found possible space in both downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan.

One conclusion is very predictable. If in order to survive, St. Ann’s Warehouse must move to Manhattan, there will be a new wave of anger directed toward the Brooklyn Heights Association.

The long delays in the Atlantic Yards development have already cost Brooklyn a watershed building designed by Frank Gehry. We will never get that unique chance again. Loss of the St. Ann’s group is so lamentable as to raise new hackles. And there is no sensible reason for this loss.

Actually, the real casualty to this “wonderland” situation is not St Ann’s; it is Brooklyn Bridge Park. An underused Tobacco Warehouse is bad enough, an underused Empire Stores is simply a disaster.

Reuse of parts, if not all of this sizeable series of structures, could financially benefit the new park, could financially benefit the city, and should be of value to DUMBO and others in Brooklyn.

Other than pettiness and petulance, no one would get any satisfaction from an idle Empire Stores standing on Brooklyn’s new waterfront.

One can make a case for all the fuss about Atlantic Yards, even if one doesn’t believe the time lost and money spent was worth it. But one cannot find an intellectual argument of merit for crippling a well-thought out plan for the Tobacco Warehouse and the needed reuse of the Empire Stores, and the potential loss of a stellar performance group founded in Brooklyn.

One can speculate on a personal vendetta that may be underway in this whole story, but that won’t save St Ann’s or bring either the Tobacco Warehouse and Empire Stores back to life. Let’s keep our eyes on the ball.


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Filed under Community News, DUMBO, Editorial

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