The report, prepared by a committee charged with exploring funding streams to cover the park’s $16 million operating budget looked at nine options. They ranged from concessions to taxing property owners who live near the park, which will run from Atlantic Avenue to DUMBO, once it is finished.
The park improvement district (PID) tax was by far the most lucrative proposal, with an estimated annual income of $1 to $4 million. But creating a PID does not seem likely to happen. Too many people are opposed to the idea, and it’s not clear that’s the right approach when it comes to funding city parks.
Without that option, what else is left?
A slew of smaller revenue-generating proposals were studied, like charging for recreation space and other amenities. They make sense, but who wants to pay to play soccer or kayak at Brooklyn Bridge Park? Shouldn’t those activities be free?
It is, after all, a public open space. Which means in theory that it should be paid for by public funds. But the Parks Department budget is shrinking, and the Bloomberg Administration, a strong advocate for public-private partnerships, has indicated luxury housing is the best way forward.
In the end that plan - in which residents inside the park would pay for its upkeep - will probably win out, to the chagrin of open space activists who have lobbied for a housing-free park there for over two decades.
A park with some residential development is still better than a bunch of useless waterfront piers, which occupied the space being transformed into a world-class (though somewhat over-stylized) urban oasis.
But it should never have gotten this far. Housing can be avoided, and it’s still not too late. Several funding options remain unexplored. State Senator Daniel Squadron’s proposal to examine the possibility of placing the tax-exempt Watchtower properties on the city’s rolls is worth looking into.
As is the park’s operating budget itself, which open space advocates argue was overblown to begin with to justify the need for luxury housing. If that is the case, and the park’s operating budget can be reduced, it changes everything. A combination of several less valuable funding streams would begin to make much more sense.
Simply put, there are too many unanswered questions at this point to rubber stamp the housing plan. Whether or not they will be addressed by the city is a different story all together.