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Brownstone Republican Club Questions Brooklyn Bridge Park Plan

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An eleventh hour letter from the Brownstone Republican Club to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, indicates that concern about how the park is bought and paid for cuts across ideological lines. The comments were made on the Final Environmental Impact Statement in a letter to the Empire State Development Corporation dated January 17. The letter raises concerns about the residential structures, the footprint of administrative structures, the proposed marina, access to the park, and a fleet of vehicles proposed for the park. “I would hate to hold up the progress of the park, because we have waited for so very long,” said Kevin D.S. Breslin, of the Brownstone Republican Club. “At the same time it is such a final thing, one does want to be cautions how we go about setting this up.” The non-profit, which is also a group member of the Brooklyn Bridge Conservancy, serves the neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, DUMBO, Gowanus and Park Slope. “This space should be primarily a recreational park and not a commercial or residential project,” the letter says. Breslin says that the Republican club supports the vision of a park and MOU signed in 2002 by Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg, envisaging a self sustaining park. But he says the new park with residential development and large hotel does not match the MOU signed by the Republican leaders. The letter suggested that the park might be supported by other options, such as food concessions, charges for ferry services, and amenities for tourists. The group questions whether the Empire State Development Corporation—whose primary mission and experience is development — is the most appropriate lead agency to deliver a park. “We sympathize with the architects. We think they have done a terrific job,” said Breslin. “But we are left with what may be the heavy hand of Empire State Development Corporation.” The NYS Department of Parks is a more qualified custodian of the park, he says. “They are developers for developers own sake,” said Breslin. “We think they may be too insensitive to what a park is and what a park does. They have the best intentions to make a marvelous park, but I do not think they have the expertise to formulate a [great] plan.” Among the many questions the letter’s authors consider unsettled is whether the legal structure of the park could allow further development down the road. They also question whether there may be some conflict between the rights of the tenants versus the rights of park users. The developed areas of the park will likely be on a 99-year lease. The Republican Brownstoners want clarification on whether the law allows only rental property or coops, and excludes condominiums on public property. Empire State Development Corporation spokesperson, Deborah Wetzel, responded by saying that the legal structure has been designed to protect the park. “The project proposes to keep all lands within the park in public ownership, with the development parcels being subject to long-term ground leases. This was determined to be the most effective way to make sure that developers are meeting their obligations to the park,” Wetzel said in an email. The letter suggested that the park might be supported by other options, such as food concessions, charges for ferry services, and amenities for tourists. Breslin said there were other concerns, including whether the location of the housing would create a barrier extending along the waterfront in the future. Moreover, the structures along the waterfront should not exceed the height of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, including any bulk heads on roofs, he said. That there is no affordable housing, clearly indicates that the point of residential development “is to raise money for park,” said Breslin. Like others before them, the Republican group has questioned whether the $15.2 million maintenance budget proposed for the park is necessary. Also regarding financing, the club wants further clarification on the Payments In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT), the mechanism by which the city gives up tax revenue, to help BBPDC collect revenue through fees. Of particular concern, is that other city departments such as education, roads, city and parks could be shortchanged on their revenue. While supporting a self-sustaining marina the group says they question whether the revenue stream would be enough to pay for its upkeep. In particular, the necessity of clearing up pollution from motorboats, and a man-made wave barrier could be expensive. They call for an additional entrance to the park, between Joralemon and Old Fulton streets, which would be needed to evacuate the park in case of an emergency, they say. The Republican club also suggests that improved transportation to the park should be considered, including extending bus lines from Cadman Plaza to Fulton Ferry Landing, which would provide easy transfer to the subway at Joralemon and Court streets. They also would like parking to be more widely distributed throughout the park so parents can easily park their cars. They also question whether a transportation fleet of 31 vehicles and two full-sized garbage trucks is necessary for a park that size. Responding to these comments, Wetzel said that the points had been received and reviewed. “Those comments have been carefully considered in the environmental review process,” said Wetzel. Breslin says that before preparing the statement, the Brownstone Republican Club consulted experts including economists, engineers and architects. He said the comments were not made earlier because the group expected the plan to evolve. “We were waiting for more answers, and wanted to be sure of a consensus,” said Breslin. “We did our research, talked to an awful lot of people, and listened to many sides of the story.” And the conclusion from the research? “We have questions we need answered before we should go further,” said Breslin.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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