The Park Agreement, the Election Of 2013, and Possible Changes

by Dennis Holt
Brooklyn Broadside

The passion and intensity of the language used by those opposing housing within Brooklyn Bridge Park strongly suggests that the issue has not been laid to rest.

While it is true that a request for proposals (RFP) for housing at the John Street site in DUMBO is expected to be issued before long, and one for the hotel and some housing on Pier 1 was issued last week, the real battleground is the housing planned for Pier 6 off Atlantic Avenue, if only because there is a date involved.

The intemperate language used in statements and op-eds by opponents is revealing — “secret, back-room deals,” “sell-outs,” “mayoral missteps,” “mayoral misdealings” and a significant number of negative mentions of Mayor Bloomberg.

The pregnant date is January 1, 2014. That date comes after the 2013 city-wide elections for mayor, borough president, and the City Council. And that is the date when any financial arrangements over the sale of Watchtower properties come to an end.

Can that date be extended? I can see no reason it can’t be with a new mayor if he insists on it. Read the first paragraph of the memorandum of understanding dated August 1, 2011 (cleaned up of leagalese).

“This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) sets forth the mutual understandings among the City of New York, the State Senator 25th District….and the State Assembly Member 52nd District… concerning the development of the John Street and Pier 6 sites.”

As previously reported, that MOU produces a formula whereby sales of certain Watchtower properties can lead to a reduction of the size of proposed housing on Pier 6 — theoretically, it could lead to no housing at all.

Realistically, however, it is almost impossible for the Watchtower to sell enough properties to eliminate all the housing. Extending the close-off date, however, improves those chances.

Thus, it is possible to expect park housing opponents to make that date an issue in the race for mayor, borough president, and city councilman, and to persuade Senator Squadron and Assembly-memner Millman to support that extension.

It would consequently be in the interests of park housing opponents to keep that issue bubbling along. Stay tuned.

A more detailed review of the MOU provides clarification on the housing issue and more detail on other developments in that statement.

The way the park leaders would approach handling a reduction in the two proposed Pier 6 properties would be to first reduce the size of the larger building (306,000 residential square feet) until it is the same height as the smaller building (148,000 square feet). If that level is reached, one floor at a time would alternately be removed from each building.

As to Pier 5, an RFP will before long go out for a “bubble” to be built there for indoor recreation in the winter. The nature of that recreation was not spelled out capital expenditures by the city cannot exceed $750,000, and it has to be determined whether whatever is proposed can be physically supported by the pier.

There is a strong indication in the MOU that the ice skating and roller skating rinks would be under the Brooklyn Bridge and require no park capital funds.

The MOU also spells out that the maintenace and operations building will include 2,200 square feet of community space and be located adjacent to Pier 2. On the top of that building will be two tennis courts: courts in that area go back to the original master plan.

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