Willowtown Association Weighs in on Park Financing

The Willowtown Association has published a statement of its views on funding the maintenance of Brooklyn Bridge Park, emphasizing its continued opposition to the construction of housing on Park land. The full text of the statement is here.

Association President Ben Bankson, one of this year’s BHB Ten, said:

We welcome the present openness of the parcels of land at Piers 1 and 6 and along John Street that have been designated for the development of residential housing and a hotel within the park. We decry the construction of any buildings on these parcels and feel that this would be a desecration of our waterfront that is finally completely accessible.

Common sense would seem to shout a loud no again to filling in these parcels with buildings. We urge instead that they be left as they now are but landscaped as integral parts of the park and made into inviting groves.

Bankson went on to support the idea of using revenues from the Watchtower properties as a source of funds. He noted:

The large T-shaped Watchtower facility along Furman Street and extending to Vine Street already has the very look of a hotel. What a wonderful place it would be–Brooklyn’s Plaza perhaps?–without taking up an inch of park land.

In her statement, Association Vice President Linda De Rosa reiterated the association’s seven point platform for Park development:

1. A park plan in keeping with the ’13 Guiding Principles’ adopted in 1992 by elected officials and local community groups.

2. Creation of an affordable waterfront park that can become a real public treasure.

3. No new residential housing in the park.

4. Income-producing uses other than housing.

5. Greater access to the park via public transportation and on foot.

6. An affordable maintenance budget.

7. Respect for the surrounding neighborhoods and their residents.

In keeping with this platform, she said, the Association offers the following suggestions:

+ Leverage concessions to support directly or provide maintenance, operations and security within the lease footprints.

+ Create conservancies and/or friends groups to generate private support.

+ Generate income from fee-for-attendance events in the park or for its use such as to make a film. Encourage events that will make park improvements thereby reducing maintenance and operations needs.

+ Seek out revenue-generating ‘sponsors’ of the park.

+ Seek a tenant for the Empire Stores in the park that will lift up their history such as a museum focusing on all that has taken place on the very footprint of Brooklyn Bridge Park not the least being that our first president, George Washington, once escaped across the East River from here.

+ Establish a Park Improvement District or PID modeled after the far more common Business Improvement District.

She concluded:

The answer lies in multiple-funding schemes that can weather the ups and downs of the economy and that do not rely 90 percent on luxury housing. That bubble, as we all know, has burst.

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