BHA, Other Plaintiffs Amend Federal Tobacco Warehouse Complaint, Add Park Corporation as Defendant

The Brooklyn Heights Association and co-plaintiffs Fulton Ferry Landing Association and New York Landmarks Conservancy, responding to the decision of the National Park Service to affirm its earlier ruling and approve the transfer of the Tobacco Warehouse site for development as a new venue for St. Ann’s Warehouse, returned to federal court yesterday with an amended complaint in their lawsuit against the Park Service, adding as defendants U.S. Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar, to whom the Park Service reports, and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation.

The plaintiffs’ press release includes these details:

The new filing reveals graphic details of political pressure brought to bear by State and City officials. National Parks was on the verge of restoring the Tobacco Warehouse, located in the park between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, to federal protection until City and State officials convinced them to reverse. Awkwardly, National Parks had already released a draft decision restoring the Tobacco Warehouse. Comparing the two conflicting decisions gives a unique view into the corrosive effect of political pressure placed on a federal agency that is supposed to protect parkland.

BHA president Jane McGroarty said:

Ironically, and sadly, neither Empire Fulton-Ferry State Park nor Brooklyn Bridge Park would exist without the community. Something born of a robust community process has been derailed by backroom politics. We are hopeful the Court will be the greater leveler of the playing field so that work can thereafter continue to build Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The lawsuit seeks to have the Tobacco Warehouse site restored to its previous position as federally protected parkland, and to enjoin its transfer to St. Ann’s or any other party for development. View the amended complaint below.

2011 03 01 Amended Complaint

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  • Karl Junkersfeld

    This post would be comical if it wasn’t so sad.

    Reading loaded terms like “graphic details” and “corrosive effect” only sensationalizes the message rather than bringing forth any light. Does anyone really believe it took much political pressure to get Salazar to reverse his drafted position? Do you really think that he doesn’t have more pressing issues on his agenda than a concern for a building, without a roof, in a privileged area of NYC that was rarely used despite repeated protestations that it was. If I hear how great the Polish Hamlet was in that space one more time, I’ll scream.

    Correct me if I am mistaken, but doesn’t the state and city get some credit for financing the park in such difficult economic times? Did the community finance it? We may in the future if Senator Squadron gets his way with a tax on the neighboring community to offset our supposedly higher real estate values.

    Reading missives like those above are really sad. If you insist in suing the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, please just do it and let the courts rule. I find it very distasteful reading this type of propaganda, time and time again from the BHA.

    If I want to read propaganda, I can go to the corner store and buy a NY Post.

  • bklyn20

    Homer et al, please be careful with the acronyms. As far as I know, “BBPC” is usually taken to be the Bklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, and “BBPDC” is the Development Corp, the people whom (I believe) the BHA et al are now suing.

    I am glad to see support for the notion of public process. However, it’s sad to see it coming now. The Park really needed it in 2004, when housing was brought into the park with no public process whatsoever.

  • Tobacco Whorehouse

    Well said Karl. BHA can try all they want to frame themselves as the last bulwark against government corruption. They can try all night long to say that this is not about St Ann’s. But everyone who’s been following this knows that the BHA has always been very loudly and publicly against the idea of allowing St Ann’s to put a roof on part of the structure and turn it into a theater. They think that they’ve found a legal loophole that can help them defeat that project and they are pursuing it, but to claim that this is about some larger issue of government conspiracy is just crap. If they didn’t have a problem with the St Ann’s plan they wouldn’t be fighting this fight. Period.

    The legal issue is specific: Can the NPS fix what they believe to be a mistake on their own with out a whole public process, or do they have to go through the more public “conversion” process even if everyone clearly understands that the inclusion of this building was an administrative error to start with? That’s a reasonable question and the court can decide.

    All of these other accusations against good public servants, intimations of larger conspiracy theories, and ad hominem attacks with hyper inflated rhetoric are really in poor taste and unnecessary.

    Stop trying to spin this, BHA. Stick to the facts. You don’t like this project. You told the government officials that you didn’t like it and why. They heard you, decided that they didn’t agree with you and that they were going to do it anyway. You did some digging and found a potential legal way of stopping them. That’s all that’s going on here.

  • David Fuller

    Yes, when I first read the post I thought the Conservancy was involved, I know that now the Corp. has taken of the word Development from its name, but… Maybe call it BBPCorp.?

    Karl, it seems you are taking the BHB to task for news reporting. I read no editorializing. BHB isn’t yellow journalism for crying out loud.

    Tobacco W., I’d love to learn the basis for your comments. Were you at the BHA annual Meeting? McGroarty was pretty specific about BHA’s reasons for the lawsuit.

  • Claude Scales

    bklyn20: The use of BBPC as an acronym for the Corporation was my doing, not Homer’s. As David Fuller points out, the name of the Corporation has been changed to drop the word “Development”; Unfortunately, this results in an acronym identical to that of the Conservancy. Accordingly, I’ve changed the headline to substitute “Park Corporation” for “BBPC”.

  • Tobacco Whorehouse

    @David Fuller – I don’t think Karl is taking BHB to task for reporting the news. I think he’s taking the BHA to task for the allegations they are making.

    I was not at the BHA meeting but have read the news reports about the meeting, both on this blog and elsewhere. I have also been at several earlier meetings before St Ann’s was awarded the tobacco warehouse where the BHA made it clear that they didn’t like the plan.

    I know what McGroarty said about the reasons for the lawsuit. My point is that I think that her stated reasons are all a smokescreen and do not represent the true reasons for the lawsuit. BHA realizes that St Ann’s is a beloved institution and does not want to be seen as being anti-St Ann’s. I get that.

    My point is that if you pay attention to everything the BHA has said and done on this issue as it has evolved their true motivation becomes clear. The legal issue is a tool that they think they can use to accomplish their desired end. The legal issue is not the ends in and of itself. And the rhetoric is just ugly and unwarranted.

  • Eddy de Lectron

    Tobacco Whorehouse, I am inclined to agree with you but why do you think the BHA is so opposed to St Ann’s taking over the space, what is the reason behind the impetus?

  • Heights Resident

    This is all very sad. The BHA got its chance to argue its position to the National Parks Service, which then heard from the City and State as well, and after reconsidering the merits based on the additional information provided by ALL parties, made its decision. It would have been a perfect opportunity for the BHA to declare victory and call it a day. Instead, they now accuse the Interior Secretary, the National Parks Service, the Mayor and even the poor assistant US Attorney assigned the case of being part of the sinister cabal. If the Judge dismisses the complaint does he get added as a defendant on the next one??? They even have added a new claim that the Empire Stores must be preserved as “parkland”. What recreational activities ever occured there?
    Karl got it right. And, for the record, the Polish Macbeth was very creative, but the only way a performance could occur in the Tobacco Warehouse was with expensive, noise cancelling head phones worn by everyone in the audience. Not exactly Shakespeare in the Park.

  • Tobacco Whorehouse

    @ Eddy: I think it’s one of 2 things. Either (1) this is a continuation of their fight with Walentas on the Dock Street DUMBO project (Walentas is on the board of St Ann’s and St Ann’s current location will be the site of the Dock St Project. Or (2) They genuinely believe that the park and public would be better served by keeping the Tobacco Warehouse as is.

    Either way it has nothing to do with concern about section 6f of the LWCF program.


    To all those hot heads and those who prefer shooting from the hip and mud-slinging to the laborious task of reading the facts, take a hard look at the complaint itself.
    You can save time: Go right to section F, on page 23, starting with paragraph 89. That’s the good stuff and even hot heads may find something new to think about.
    And, as you read through this, bear in mind Pat Moynihan’s admonition, “We are all entitled to our own opinions but not to our own facts.”

  • Heights Resident

    Martin: I know this is hard to appreciate from inside the BHA boardroom, but not everyone who disagrees with the BHA is a hot head, or shooting from the hip, or a mudslinger. i have read all your legal filings with care and suggest that if someone were looking for a textbook example of “mudslinging” the document your lawyers filed in state court would serve nicely. The Senator was right to point out that we are not entitled to our own facts; it would be nice if your lawyers stuck to them. Senator Moynihan also pointed out that if certain community groups had had their way there would be no Lincoln Center. A wise man.

  • bklyn20

    Thanks, Claude and Homer for enlightening me regarding the new initials.

  • Homer Fink

    I’m bummed I missed Polish Macbeth. Having seen the Kelsey Grammer production I wonder how it stacks up.

    Yes I saw the KG Macbeth. Yes I was in the first row. It was AWESOME.

    Carry on.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    That was MacBeth? No wonder I had problems with the production, I thought it was Hamlet. All this time I thought it was the Polish interpretation that confused the characters when it was my own ignorance.

    Fact is, I have trouble with Shakespeare in both English and Polish. I’ll stick with musicals.

  • Eddy de Lectron

    TW, Yes I agree the BHA has an agenda beyond “just keeping em honest” but the complaint appears to contain some good evidence of chicanery by the players involved. Why should we just roll over and let the “The Developer” get his way, and lose a piece of public space? Yes, St Ann’s performance space is a good thing but there are other suitable spaces they can occupy. I see no good reason to lose the unique part of public park that is the Tobacco Warehouse.
    I hadden’t been following this story with much interest… but now I think I have a pretty clear picture .The BHA is doing the right thing.

  • carol

    It seems to me that the time has come for the court to enter the fray. If, as some contend, this is simply a grudge that the BHA has against Two Trees or that it is part two of Dock Street, I trust the judge will figure that out pretty quickly. Or if, as others maintain, government agencies failed to protect public parkland, the judge ought to be able see if that argument holds any water. Obviously both sides are trying to make their case in the court of public opinion, but it’s the other court that matters, isn’t it?

  • Karl Junkersfeld



  • nabeguy

    TW, perhaps the more proper post name is St Ann’s Whorehouse, As an alumnus of that school (1980 graduate), my stomach turns when I consider the bed they’ve chosen to lie in. But, considering the scam that Stanley Bosworth propagated on the parents of this neighborhood back in ’65, it’s hardly surprising.

  • Eddy de Lectron

    LOL… my friends and I used to refer to ST Ann’s as “The best little whorehouse in Brooklyn”

  • nabeguy

    I hear you Eddy, but back then, it was more about the sex than the politics. And with SB at the helm, it was quite a cruise.

  • ujh

    To Mr. Junkersfeld (I admire your videos and usually cogent commentaries) and others who have chosen the side of St. Ann’s Warehouse: Please hold your collective tongues unless you attended the planning meetings and are familiar with the years-long discussions, which members of the public from all walks of life and outside the Brooklyn Heights Association had with the BBP planners about the future of the Tobacco Warehouse. The desire to keep the Tobacco Warehouse “as is” goes beyond the interests of the BHA and the Fulton Ferry Landing Association and as I mentioned in this forum before, at no time was the Tobacco Warehouse subject of public meetings or a hearing until the decision had been made by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation to issue an RFP and the public was invited to listen to the presentations of the two responders. Not surprisingly, St. Ann’s Warehouse was chosen as the future occupant. Is it unreasonable to expect that Two Trees Management could have included a venue for the arts presenter in its Dock Street project instead of a middle school, the size of which was considered inadequate from the moment it was proposed?