Community Advisory Council to Park on Housing Alternatives: Back to the Drawing Board, Please

At yesterday evening’s meeting at LICH, after almost two hours of discussion, the Community Advisory Council (“CAC”) to Brooklyn Bridge Park passed, by a vote of 13-3 with four abstentions, a resolution urging the Committee on Alternatives to Housing (“CAH”) of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation to instruct Bay Area Economics (“BAE”), the consultants hired to study sources of revenue for the Park other than housing, to “aggressively study potential revenue generating ideas and expense reduction options, including fundraising/sponsorship opportunities and options involving the Watchtower properties.” The resolution also adopts the recommendations made in testimony to BAE by Community Boards 2 and 6 that the CAH reconsider the decision that the Watchtower properties do not meet the threshold conditions for consideration as an alternative revenue source, “and to consider a fuller range of other revenue opportunities relating to these properties” as well as considering other revenue sources and ways of reducing expenses. Text of the CAC resolution and of the CB6 testimony (CB2′s is substantially similar) follows the jump.

Here is the text of the resolution as adopted by the CAC last night:

The CAC endorses the positions taken by CB6 and CB2 that encourage the BAE to aggressively study potential revenue generating ideas and expense reduction options, including fundraising/sponsorship opportunities and options involving the Watchtower properties. In addition to the revenue sources mentioned in the CB2 and CB6 resolutions, the CAC urges BAE to consider other potential revenue sources including, but not limited to: a real estate transfer fee; enhanced revenues from parking (specifically, the police garage); alternative approaches to the PID; and potential revenues from the yacht marina. The CAC further urges BAE to provide a point by point analysis of the revenue generators covered in the 1997 Praedium Group study.

Here is CB6′s testimony, submitted in the form of a letter from CB6 chairperson Daniel Kummer to Ron Golem, principal of BAE:

I am writing to advise you that at its April 13, 2011 general meeting Brooklyn Community Board 6 resolved by a vote of 31 in favor, 2 against, with no abstentions, to support the submission of the following statement as our testimony in response to Bay Area Economics’ (BAE) draft report prepared for the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation’s Committee for Alternatives to Housing (CAH) entitled, “Study of Alternatives to Housing for the Funding of Brooklyn Bridge Park Operations.”

Brooklyn Community Board 6 (CB6) truly appreciated the presentation to our Executive Committee on April 11, 2011 by representatives of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, as it gave us, and those in attendance, a much deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities related to the revenue potential for the park.

Brooklyn CB6 commends the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, the Committee on Alternatives to Housing and BAE for finding many ways to pay for the park without the need for more housing, in keeping with our long-standing position against housing inside this park.

The BAE draft report has already identified millions of dollars in potential revenue that has the potential, at a minimum, to drastically reduce the need for housing revenue to sustain the ongoing operations of the park.

Brooklyn CB6 believes that the CAH could go further than it has in identifying revenue. Specifically, as originally proposed, BAE should analyze the potential revenue opportunities involving the currently tax-exempt Watchtower Society properties. We call on the CAH to reconsider its finding that this revenue source does not meet the study threshold parameters and to consider a fuller range of other revenue opportunities relating to these properties.

Brooklyn CB6 believes that the CAH should also reconsider and study further the fundraising and sponsorship opportunities for alternative funding, since they have both been proven, effective strategies for other major urban park-centered organizations like the Prospect Park Alliance and the Central Park Conservancy.

Brooklyn CB6 also believes that the CAH should investigate design and/or engineering changes, working within the parameters of the approved General Project Plan, which could substantially reduce operating expenses. As with the Watchtower properties, we call on the CAH to reconsider its finding that exploring those opportunities for expense reduction does not meet the study threshold parameters.

Lastly, Brooklyn CB6 believes that until such time as the alternative sources of revenue (without housing), including those additional unstudied sources noted above, are sufficient to fund the operating costs of the park, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation and the City should fund the shortfall. Such a subsidy would be particularly justified by the fact that this unique location’s characteristics have already contributed to a vibrant synergy between the park, its surrounding neighborhoods, the waterfront and New York Harbor. Brooklyn CB6 strongly believes that this park will eventually become one of the City’s premier destinations, and therefore merits such support.

The resolution adopted by the CAC last night was initially tabled as a motion by Cobble Hill resident Dorothy Siegel. It was amended following suggestions by CB6 member Richard Bashner and Heights resident and long-time park advocate Tony Manheim, who suggested including more specific language concerning the alternative sources that BAE should be asked to study anew or further. Another CAC member argued that the resolution should be as broad and non-specific as possible, so as to include sources not specifically mentioned. However, Ms. Siegel, as sponsor of the motion, agreed to the more specific language which, at the suggestion of Messrs Bashner and Manheim, was further amended to include the words “including, but not limited to” before the list of specific sources. Another CAC member suggested amending it to provide that alternatives to housing only be considered if they would not delay park construction or operations.

Heights resident and CAC member Peter Flemming strongly objected to consideration of two items included in the “1997 Praedium Group study” referenced at the end of the CAC resolution. One of these is the marina that was included in an earlier park plan but later removed. Mr. Flemming said that the revenues projected to be generated from docking fees were minimal, and the only way to make the marina a substantial source of funds was to devote Piers 3 and 5 to facilities serving the yachts and their owners. This, he said, would come at the cost of losing the landscaped space and playing fields now planned for those two piers. He similarly objected to considering reverting to the plan to use Pier 2 as an indoor ice skating rink, instead of the present plan to use it for hard-court sports like basketball and handball. A skating rink, he said, would produce only a minimal revenue stream.

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  • nabeguy

    “Yeah, and this tiime, bring your crayons with you”

  • Buggs Bunny

    Barely Yellow Showers, could have been much worse.

  • buddy11210

    Bravo CB6 and CB2. The people, again and again, have spoken. This park can be paid for without housing inside its borders. And there should also be more to do inside it than gaze upon its landscaping from afar. So, onward to a true park! Thank you Bay Area Consulting for finding ways to pay without housing. And so shall Brooklyn finally heal. How many days left until the Mayor departs?

  • Elmer Fudd

    Bloomie has violated the public’s trust. Off with his head. No 4th term for you, shorty.

  • T.K. Small

    The meeting was definitely less “shower-worthy”.

  • Jeffrey J Smith

    Again-how do you any kind of cost and funding analysis in a financial situation like this.