City Ready to Commit Additional $55 Million to Park

BHB photo by C. Scales

BHB photo by C. Scales

Characterizing Brooklyn Bridge Park as “the most exciting park project in New York City in 100 years”, City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe (at podium in photo) announced, at the meeting at LICH hosted by State Sen. Daniel Squadron (standing at right), that the City is prepared, pending State approval, immediately to commit an additional $55 million to the capital construction fund for Brooklyn Bridge Park. This money would be used to build athletic facilities, including a seasonal “bubble” on Pier 2, a skating rink, and a pedestrian bridge from Squibb Park to Brooklyn Bridge Park. The availability of these funds is contingent upon the state government’s approval of the City’s taking control of the Park’s development.

A large number of people showed up for the meeting, which was announced to be held in two adjoining conference rooms; one of those rooms, however, was being used for a medical meeting. Consequently, it was standing room only for latecomers, with many crowding an adjoining stairwell. Following Commissioner Benepe’s address, in which he detailed further City plans for the Park, including a possible new floating swimming pool, he invited questions. The first question was whether the City would continue to plan to fund Park maintenance through residential and hotel construction on Park land. Mr. Benepe replied that this was the present plan, but noted that funds from new construction would not be needed for some time, as funds from the existing 340 Furman Street were sufficient to cover projected maintenance costs for several years. Asked whether the City would adhere to the present commitment to limit residential and hotel use to ten percent of Park land, he said that it would.

Many of the succeeding questions were prefaced by pleas that the City reconsider funding Park maintenance from residential construction, and that the planning process be open to community participation. Mr. Benepe said the City was always willing to consider alternatives, and that dialogue with the community would continue.

Mr. Benepe also stressed the role of the State’s Public Authorities Control Board in reviewing the terms of any agreements with developers concerning residential or hotel construction in the Park. State Assembly Member Joan Millman, who was present along with representatives of City Council Members elect Steve Levin and Brad Lander, added that she and Sen. Squadron would also have oversight.

At the outset of the meeting, Sen. Squadron said he hoped it would serve to “lower the temperature” of discussion concerning the Park, and lead toward consensus. Asked afterward what he thought it had accomplished, he said he believed it had convinced most of those who attended that “change is possible”, and that the City had expressed its willingness to listen to, and consider, concerns and proposals from the community.

For another take on the meeting, see the comment to an earlier post (scroll down to the second comment) by reader bklyn20.

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  • anon

    Hard working Claude banging out the hot copy…

    Great post and my query is about PACB and how it relates to the park. I know what PACB is and have personal experience with it, but I don’t get the reference for this situation. The mandate is simply to review financing arrangements, though in practical terms it has been used to exact political leverage (most famously done in the 42nd St redevelopment process). But did Millman and/or Squadron explain they would urge their respective Assembly and/or Senate PACB members to reject financing? Do they have the political juice to do so (if Connor didn’t, how does Squadron?). Even so, this seems unlikely overall because of PACB politics and the limited statutory mandate. In any event, Commr Benepe (and NYC) has no PACB role or membership (only the Assembly, Senate and Governor each get 1 vote). Can you elaborate a bit more on this issue?

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Squadron hopes the city will cut out 550 condos and replace them with amenities like a winter bubble structure, a swimming pool and possibly a school. To finance these plans, he suggests a park increment recapture program, which means requiring increased property tax assessments on property in rezoned neighborhoods within four-tenths of a mile near the park.

    Revenue: How a PIRCWorks
    • City redirects a % of property tax revenue increases on any
    rezoned areas or propertiesin a .4 mile radius of the Park to
    finance the Park’s operations
    • Not an increase on property tax rates, rather an increase in
    revenue due to enhanced property value
    • No new taxes on residents or businesses


    Not an increased tax??????? Just taking more money from you based on projected increased values. A tax is a tax is a tax. Correct me if I am wrong but would not Brooklyn Heights real estate values go up based on this assumption and can they expect real estate tax increases? After all, it not really a tax on Heights residents according to Squadron. I guess it is their civic duty to fork over any realized property appreciation. It would seem only fair if indeed their real estate values increase. Having the caveat to restrict to rezoned area but not others, who are supposedly benefiting from increase values, is duplicitous in my opinion.

    Is this another Highline situation?

  • Publius

    IMHO, the City will work hard over the next few years to gain control over many of the State parks in the five boroughs, especially the waterfront parks.

    Bloomberg and his DOPR appointee Benepe want a ring of City waterfront parks to be a legacy of their tenture.

    Also, IMHO, this will be good for the City, as City park rules tend to be more city patron friendly than State park rules.

  • Landon

    I’ve never quite understood the ardent opposition to the condos/hotels. I’d gladly trade a wonderful new park without having to pay higher taxes for a developers right to add a relatively small amount of condos along the waterfront. Squadron’s plan calls for all of us to pay higher taxes, the fact that he says it doesn’t proves he is just another politician, the same as everyone that came before him.

    In addition to the park, the additional residents and park visitors might improve our eating and shopping options in the ‘hood, which we all know is in need of an upgrade. All in all, we should want this to get done, that is the most important thing.

  • sue

    Senator Squadron is a politican in a hurry.. If change is possible why is he sending out self promoting material (just like Connor before him) paid for by us. I recieved this yesterday telling us about all that he has done in one year.
    He is starting to look like a second Yassky.

  • Truman

    Just for the record, property taxes in Dumbo are shockingly, almost criminally low. That will soon change, as the J51 tax abatement will expire in the next year or two.

    In Dumbo, people who paid $300/ft in 1998 for 2,500 sq. ft. lofts with views have been paying a paltry $3,000/year in property taxes. (Compare that to the $12,000/yr tax bill for current buyers at 166 Montague). When the J51 tax abatement runs out, Dumbo’s annual RE tax should be more in keeping with condos in Tribeca, lower Fifth Avenue, etc. and be increased five-fold.
    If one includes just the five main buildings in Dumbo — One Brooklyn Bridge, One Main, Sweeney, 70 Wash, and J Condo — adjusted property taxes could bring $10 million/yr to help pay for the park. Include all the condos in Dumbo plus all of Walentas-owned commercial property, and that money could help sustain the park without more condos being built.

    Additionally. with the sluggish (I’m being kind) real estate climate, and with the plethora of recent accounts of developers plummeting into the red (Shaya Boymelgreen, 20 Bayard, Toll Brothers, etc), and with hundreds, if not thousands condo units going unsold, the erection of yet more unnecessary condominiums projects is the last thing Brooklyn needs.

  • David

    I’ve been profoundly indebted to the city park since being a juvenile. Where else was a young man supposed to take his very first conquests? But before you go ahead and judge, this took place during a time that was safe and clean. It’s not like that anymore. So, why should 35% of my income go towards these filth gardens? Clean the streets first Sen. Squadron!

  • Ursula Hahn

    Please learn to spell Commissioner Adrian Benepe’s name.

  • Claude Scales

    Thanks, Ursula. I’ve made the correction.

  • Kim

    Truman’s right…over development only creates problems. I’m the new one here but my home town’s ( Baltimore ) waterfront is littered with thousands of unsold spec properties.
    Now, I do have a question. Would new condos and related development be a good thing for the area as in building up the tax base and creating employment or would it simply make a congested area more unfriendly to pedestrians and create an undesirable path for crime and filth. Baltimore has had some high end developers get amazing tax breaks and I can’t say that any of this has helped the communities

    Just wondering…I’m following the “politics” but I just can’t figure what’s going on (LOL!)

  • sue

    Isn’t it ironic that on the same day Joe Bruno is found guilty of corruption and sentenced to perhaps 20 years.. we are asked to put the future of the park in the hands of the public authorites control board.. Think Spitzer, Bruno, Hevesi…This is a huge swamp…Think Albany corruption… Think pay to play..

  • anon

    Sue, the PACB helps and kills. It also killed the recent West Side stadium that had been “championed” by Bloomberg.

  • sue

    trust me … the only thing the pcab will help re the future devleopment of brooklyn bridge park will be the politicans
    wallets.. look at all the wasted money that has been given to them for lobbying from developers… it is disgraceful

  • nabeguy

    If you keep following the politics Kim, you’ll end up in the river…it’s a long walk off a short pier.

  • ABC

    taxes in dumbo criminally low. taxes in brooklyn heights criminally high

  • nabeguy

    ABC, our tax abatement ran out at just about the same time that carriages were blocking the lane in front of the Presbyterian Church.

  • william

    At a time when the City has fired school aides, and teachers, and has closed senior programs, and closed a fire house in Cobble Hill to save money… where is the City getting 55 million dollars from to “buy” this park?
    Mr. Bloomberg is starting to look, act and sound more and more like Leona Helmsey everyday. Start serving the “little people” Mike. They are your constituents. Stop pandering to the real estate developers, and start serving all of the people of NYC for a change.
    The wonderful Waterfront Park will be built by the State without the City’s “help”. So what if the construction stages take a little longer with the State.
    State Senator Squadron and Assembly Member Millman should ask Governor Patterson to reject Mr. Bloomberg’s park purchase offer, and urge him to behave more responsibly to the needs of the citizens of New York.
    Alternatives to housing do exist for park financing, and they have been presented many times. The people of Brooklyn need a park, not another empty housing development for the rich, via Mr. Bloomberg.
    Butt-out Mikey. The park can be built without you.

  • Seth Murphy

    A question was asked by Doug Biviano about whether a portion of the taxes made available after the J51 tax abatements expire in the area (of which there are many as stated) could be used to maintain the park. The answer given was that it was already spent, as the city project 20 years out with their budget. This is not wholly true that there is no flexibility. Real budgets are only done 4 years in advance, and re-evaluated quarterly. Where do you think the city got $55 million from, was it put in the budget 20 years ago? Of course he said the upcoming income is already planned to be used to pay for schools and such.

    If you ask me $55 million is a good deal for control of a project, you didn’t even pay for completely, which has no ongoing cost, as the proposed plan is “self sufficient”. In addition the only control you lack is to approve housing. Power at minimal cost with all the dirty work being done outside your control. This is just one in a long list of power plays that Bloomberg is making. If things stayed as they are now the city would benefit just as much. Bloomberg, if you have the $55 million budgeted to pay for a park, use it to pay for a park to be built, not to buy an item to add on to your list of accomplishments.

    Unfortunately I think he has the state backed in a corner, as they don’t seem to even have the $55 million now. I think what we were told is a forgone conclusion. On the other hand, housing in the park aside, there have been a lot of real development in the park that is not housing which I can’t wait to see open within the next year.

  • william

    It is immoral for the City to take money from social services and redirect it where it isn’t needed. The park can be built and maintained without Bloomberg and his condos.

  • nabeguy

    Interesting article in the News today

  • Seth Murphy

    nabeguy, interesting article, but sort of irrelevant to the real heart of this issue. I for one assume that by the time the “planned” housing is built in 5 years or so (probably sooner if the market rebounds quickly), the condos will sell. The question is not can residential housing support the park as planned, but is it necessary or a precedent we want to set.

    At the meeting the city said that the cost of building the development (err . . . park) and maintaining it are two completely different issue, and do not at all correlate with each other. They mention that most of the capital money to develop (err . . build the park) is not “seen”, and that what is actually in the development (err . . . park) and seen (recreation areas, playgrounds, housing, etc . . ) is just the tip of the ice-burg and doesn’t affect the price tag considerably for either maintenance or initial development. While this may be true in some instances I find it hard to believe, as the infrastructure that is required is based on what it has to support. When housing is in the picture, I have to assume that more unseen infrastructure is needed to support a building than a ball field. It is the apparent absolute truths we are given by all the planners involve that I have to question.

    I would like to ask the developers (err… park builders) a simple question. Why is housing in a park a good idea? The “It is the only way the park can be self sufficient argument” is based on their parameters of what the development (err . . . park) should be. It is similar to the old “because” answer parents give their children when they feel they are not able to understand (or don’t want them to know) what is really involved in the answer. We are not children, and I would like to really understand why there needs to be housing in a park. The cynical me already knows the answer (rhymes with money), I guess “because” is all they will ever fess up to.

    If the only answer is “because” then just be honest and sell all the land to developers who can let us on their land if they wish. Then they can call it a private park, and get any praise from the community they deserve for sharing it. The government needs to stop trying to take credit for building a park, it is insulting to me. It will not be a true park by definition, and we all know it.