Local Pols Ask Consideration of Watchtower Properties for Park Funding

In a letter to Robert Steel, Chair of the Committee on Alternatives to Housing of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Board and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Borough President Marty Markowitz, Assembly Member Joan Millman, and City Council Members Steve Levin and Brad Lander urged further consideration of payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) on residential properties to be developed in buildings to be vacated by Watchtower as a source of funds for operation and maintenance of Brooklyn Bridge Park. In so doing, they supported the resolutions of Community Boards 2 and 6, and of the Community Advisory Council to the Park, that the Watchtower properties and other potential sources of funds be considered in lieu of housing to be constructed on park land to funds the Park’s upkeep.

According to the letter:

In resolutions passed at full community board meetings held on April 13th the members urged BAE [Bay Area Economics, the consultants retained by the Park Corporation to study alternatives to housing] to conduct a fuller study of revenue options, including studying the different mechanisms by which the Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower properties can be used to fund the maintenance and operations of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Specifically, Community Board 2 asks for the study of “the use of Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreements to capture tax revenues from future tax-paying owners of certain currently exempt Watchtower Society properties,” and Community Board 6 requests consideration of “a fuller range of other revenue opportunities relating to these properties.” A broad array of community organizations — including the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council — have submitted the same feedback to BAE pertaining to the Watchtower properties as the community boards’ resolutions.

We endorse these organizations’ request that BAE’s final report include a comprehensive study of how revenue from the nearly three million square feet of Watchtower properties can be used to fund the park, including the proposals that have not yet been studied in the draft report.

Both Squadron and Millman have been granted veto power over any proposal for park funding that includes housing to be built on park land.

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  • Big Dave

    While I applaud the forward thinking, there has been nothing to my knowledge spoken or written about a time table for the Watchtower properties entering the secular realm of real estate. Without this knowledge, isn’t contemplating their use pie-in-the-sky? Meantime, the park construction ought to move forward.

  • http://bivforbrooklyn.com Doug Biviano

    @Big Dave. What’s the time table for the luxury real estate market pie-in-the-sky recovery needed for the development in the park?

    Last I checked, One Brooklyn is hundreds of units unsold 3 years on the market at drastically discounted prices. Not sure how this will attract the developers as the buyers and prices are simply not there…unless of course the city gives the land away and subsidizes the private development further in the name of saving the BBP.

    But of course, the BBDC could just instead build a simpler but just as inherently beautiful park and trim the bogusly bloated O&M that was back calculated to justify the development.

    The bottom line is that with all the record development and population density increases in Downtown Brooklyn both the demand of parks and the obligation of NYC to meet it, there should be more than enough money in the general city fund to cover O&M. Can anyone say NYC contractors?

  • Hicks on hicks

    @Doug
    Where would you cut the city budget to find the money to cover the park’s O&M? What analysis do you have that the park’s O&M is “bogusly bloated”?

    I’d rather see less development as well, but I’d rather have development and a park than no park or higher taxes.

  • Jeffrey j Smith

    The problem is: how can we do ANY reiable financial projections
    in a financial situation like this? Back off and look at the National
    and international financial situation and its already powerful
    effects on citys and well, any municipal units nationwide. Police
    and fire mass layoffs etc. and this is a gathering storm at present.
    So how can we do any honest projections in an atmosphere like this? Very questionable.