Residents fight for green space in Brooklyn Bridge Park
by Jess Berry
Aug 13, 2014 | 509 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Community Room in Brooklyn Borough Hall was standing room only last week, as angry residents arrived in droves to oppose the construction of two towers, one reaching 315 feet high, on Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP).

The two residential towers, which could house up to 430 residential units in total, were proposed and approved nearly a decade ago in order to allow the park to raise enough funds to sustain itself, according to the Board of Directors for BBP.

But a lot has changed in ten years, residents say, and the wildly successful park does not need the funding and certainly does not need more space taken away for housing.

Judi Francis, an advocate for BBP for decades, said that “this fight is about the people who really want a park.”

“We want a park that addresses the needs of neighborhoods in Brooklyn,” Francis said. “We want more green space; we’re desperate for it. And I don’t care who you are — if you live in a city apartment or a high rise — we need green space.”

Community members and park-goers called on the Board of Directors to review the General Project Plan (GPP) and look into options other than constructing the towers to fund the park.

Residents who regularly go to the park say that space is already limited, as Brooklynites flock to the green space for a reprieve from the city.

“It’s often overcrowded, especially on the weekends,” resident and assembly candidate Doug Biviano said. “There’s no open space, there’s no grass, kids can’t kick a ball. They’re going to take up the last bit of open space we have there. We should utilize and maximize every bit of space for people who use that park.”

State Senator Daniel Squadron agreed, adding a list of reasons why the GPP needs to be reviewed, including the changes in real estate over the last ten years.

“This GPP was devised under a very different real estate market,” State Senator Daniel Squadron said. “Over time, residential housing undermines the ability of public space to be truly public, focused on the needs of the overall community.”

The BBP Conservancy, which is in charge of planning the park’s public programming, stated the continued necessity for housing to offset the costs of the park, which they said amounted to approximately $12 million a year.

Director of BBP Joanne Witty said that it has been understood since 2005 that housing was going to be put into the park in order to make the park self-sustaining. Without that stipulation, she said, the park would not have been built.

“Once we knew how much it was going to cost to maintain this park, we had to figure out how we were going to pay for it,” Witty said. “Because there was no park without the mechanism to make the payments, that was part of the deal.”

But Francis fought back, saying that a community planning session has never been held regarding the plans for the park. In fact, she said, many community members had ideas for other ways to fund the park, but the Bloomberg administration tossed the proposals a decade ago.

“We, the community, have come up with so many good ideas of how to improve the access, the utility, and the accessibility,” Francis said. “But I would ask you, have they ever had a public planning session for Pier 6?”

Despite the push from the community and a number of elected officials, the board stood by the decade-old GPP and voted down the proposal for a review of the plan, with a vote of eight opposing and three in favor.

“The development of Brooklyn Bridge Park should benefit every Brooklynite,” said Maria Espinelle, a member of Build Up NYC. “However, it seems that only the desires of wealthy developers matter to this board.”

Henry Gutman, a member of the board, said he did not see why the building construction continues to be a point of discussion with the community.

“The fact that your viewpoint doesn’t prevail doesn’t mean that your viewpoint wasn’t heard,” he said.

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