The Committee on Alternatives to Housing of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation met this evening at City Hall to consider which of twelve proposed alternative sources of funding Bay Area Economics(“BAE”), the consultant hired to evaluate such proposals, would be authorized to consider whether to include in its report to the Park’s board of directors. Of the twelve proposals, the Committee voted to authorize BAE to evaluate nine of them. The nine approved are: (1) advertising and sponsorship; (2) creation of a Business Improvement District (“BID”) or Park Improvement District (“PID”); (3) non-residential commercial real estate development; (4) concessions of all types, including food and fine dining; (5) event facilities; (6) fee-based recreational facilities; (7) fund raising and philanthropy; (8) increased parking revenues; and (9) revenues from buildings presently owned and used by Watchtower but to be sold.
The three not approved are: (1) direct City funding (this was objected to by Seth Pinsky, President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and a mayoral appointee to the Park’s board, as being outside the scope of the Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) governing the search for alternative revenue sources in that it requires diversion of City funds otherwise available for general revenue purposes); (2) reduction of the Park’s operating budget (objected to by Pinsky because it is not a “revenue source” as required by the MOU); and (3) use of a portion of real estate tax revenue generated as a result of the Park’s construction because of rezoning of adjacent or nearby areas, as proposed by State Sen. Daniel Squadron (objected to by Pinsky for the same reason as his objection to direct City funding). The Committee was unanimous in voting not to allow BAE to consider direct City funding or reduction in the Park’s budget, but the proposal concerning use of an increment of real estate tax revenue was supported by John Raskin and Paul Nelson, chiefs of staff for Sen. Squadron and Assembly Member Joan Millman, respectively. However, they were outvoted by the three mayoral appointees.
The proposals sent to BAE by the Committee are not mutually exclusive, and could be used in combination. Some of these proposals–commercial real estate development, concessions, event facilities, fee-based recreational facilities, and increased parking–could, especially if more than one is approved, result in a greater amount of the Park’s footprint being used for revenue generation than would be used by the proposed housing. A BID would have to be approved by merchants in the affected area, and a PID could result in assessments on residential as well as commercial properties, and could also be subject to approval by those affected. A similar proposal for the High Line park in Manhattan was rejected because of local opposition.
BAE is to present a draft of its report by mid February, after which there will be a sixty day period in which comments from the public will be received, as well as another public meeting. At the close of this evening’s meeting, Mr. Nelson noted that there had been complaints about the short notice given to the public. He said that the decision to invite the public had been made “at the last minute”, and that he regretted the lack of earlier notice.