There will be a public hearing this evening at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, starting at 6:00, to discuss the preliminary results of the study on alternatives to housing as means for funding Brooklyn Bridge Park maintenance and operating costs. Comments on the preliminary results will be accepted until April 23 (update: the deadline is now April 25), and the consultants will release the final report by thirty days after that. This will be followed by another public meeting, after which the Park’s board will decide what recommendations to adopt.
Today, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, a privately funded not-for-profit organization, released a statement in which it endorsed the idea of a limited amount of housing being built on the Park’s periphery to provide a portion of the needed funds. It suggests that some of the proposed alternatives may serve to reduce the scale of housing required, but that others may “privatize” the Park more than housing would. The full text of the statement follows the jump.
Since 2004, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy has supported the General Project Plan (GPP) for Brooklyn Bridge Park, which calls for a limited amount of residential and commercial development to fully finance the maintenance and operations of self-sustaining Brooklyn Bridge Park.
While supporting the plan, we have also consistently advocated for the least amount of development possible to adequately sustain the park. In that spirit, we welcome the work of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Committee on Alternatives to Housing and the most recent study on revenue alternatives.
Of the alternatives studied, the Conservancy believes that the careful and judicious use of private events, the exploration of sponsorship opportunities and private philanthropy in support of capital projects, and the metering of existing street level parking spaces hold some potential as revenue sources.
But let’s be clear that these and other revenue alternatives outlined in the report will not be sufficient to replace the Pier 6 and John St residential sites, which are expected to contribute approximately $8.25 million in revenues per year, nor the Pier 1 residences. However, as we have advocated, these new funds could help to reduce the scale of residential development in the park. We call on Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation to examine that potential quickly and thoroughly.
Here’s why this discussion is so important right now.
Brooklyn Bridge Park isn’t fully funded yet – the park still needs approximately $130 million to complete its construction. The City of New York has said that it will provide the capital dollars to build the rest of Brooklyn Bridge Park, but those dollars will flow only if the park has a viable plan to fund its maintenance and operations.
That means that $44 million in funds in the short term along with an additional $85 million that has been promised, but not allocated, is hanging in the balance. We cannot afford to walk away from that, and lose the promise of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
If we want the rest of the park – Piers 2 and 3, the outer section of Pier 6, the section in Dumbo, and Brooklyn Bridge Plaza – to be built, we need certainty about when we will have the funding to maintain them and where that funding will come from. And we need that certainty now.
The current park plan – which proposes an achievable strategy for self-sustainability with only 9% of its footprint devoted to revenue-generation (less than half of what was originally authorized) – is still a good plan. And the development parcels that are under review comprise 3 plots with footprints of approximately 10,000 square feet each – in total less than 3/4 of an acre.
Some have expressed concern that the housing contemplated in the current plan will privatize the park.
We’ve had a year to test this concern. One Brooklyn Bridge Park has been occupied since before the opening of Pier 6, and we have no indication whatsoever that it has compromised the enjoyment of the thousands of children playing in the water lab, visitors catching the free ferry to Governor’s Island, or bikers taking the interim greenway to Pier 1. And it certainly has not discouraged those from outside the neighborhood coming to the park – surveys showed that visitors flocked to the park from over 175 zip codes, all across the city, and the world.
Limited residential development actually privatizes the park far less than some of the alternatives outlined in the BAE report, such as taking up more open space by spreading additional retail stores across the park’s boundaries, or building a parking garage on what could be open space, or charging fees for basketball courts that are free at every other park in the city.
We think the park’s designers are right when they note that in the case of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is cut off from surrounding neighborhoods by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, having people live on the park’s edges will help activate and energize the open spaces and provide critical “eyes on the park” for what can be an isolated area. And additional residents will support the retail activities already envisioned in the park’s plan.
In closing, Piers 1 and 6 of Brooklyn Bridge Park opened last winter and captured our hearts. But let’s reiterate – much of the rest of the park may never be finished if we cannot implement a revenue plan. The basketball and handball courts of Pier 2 may never be built, the John St. section of the park may remain as a garbage-strewn and fenced-off field, Pier 3 may degrade and fall into the East River, and the back half of Pier 6 may never open.
It’s time to decide whether we want Brooklyn Bridge Park, or not. Whether we want a fully built park, or whether we want to stop with only 2/3 of our park built and walk away from the rest because we cannot reach agreement on its funding.
The Conservancy wants a fully built park, and we want it as quickly as possible – with no delays and no more uncertainty over its future.
To that end, we call on the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, the Mayor, and our local elected officials to reach an agreement and move forward now with a revenue plan that fully funds a safe, beautiful, and vibrant Brooklyn Bridge Park and fully commit the remaining $130 million in capital funds to complete the world-class, waterfront park this community has worked for over the past twenty-five years.
Brooklyn Bridge Park – fully funded, fully built – NOW.