Park Consultants Submit Final Report on Housing Alternatives

Bay Area Economics (“BAE”), the consultants hired by the board of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation to study alternatives to housing in the park as sources of funding for park operations and maintenance, have submitted the final version of their report to the board’s Committee on Alternatives to Housing. The full text of the report can be found through a link on the Corporation’s website. The Report makes no specific recommendations concerning whether or not to build housing, but simply evaluates the revenue, and the risks concerning availbility of such revenue, that can be anticipated from various sources that were suggested and studied as alternatives to revenue from housing, and which the Committee deemed to be in accordance with the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) under which the city agreed to take responsibility for construction, operation, and maintenance of the park; in particular, that no funds (other than payments in lieu of taxes, “PILOTs”, on the housing and hotel planned to be built on park land) that would otherwise accrue to the city’s general revenues would be diverted for park use.

Based on its study, BAE concluded that the annual revenue to be anticipated from the alternative sources, taking into account risk factors, ranges from $2,421,000 on the most conservative assumptions to $6,951,000 on the most optimistic ones. (See page iii of the Report; these amounts are the same as in BAE’s draft report–see here.) The largest part of this ($1 million on a conservative basis; $4 million on an optimistic view) would come from creation of a Park Improvement District, which would levy a fee on properties (both business and residential) located near the park. Creation of such a District would require approval of a majority of the affected property owners. No revenues were anticipated from conversion of the Watchtower properties because of uncertainty concerning Watchtower’s willingness to pay for expedited land use review, which was the one source of revenue (apart from a potential one-time payment in consideration for redesign of the hotel planned for the Pier 1 upland so as to improve the view from apartments in the Watchtower complex) that was considered to meet the requirements of the MOU. Proposals to allow PILOTs, or similar levies, on the Watchtower properties were dismissed as violating the terms of the MOU. (See pages vii-viii.)

The projected revenues from the alternative sources, even on the most optimistic assumptions, would be far less than the anticipated annual operational and maintenance expenses of $16 million (see page 11). Therefore, if the conclusions of the BAE study are accepted, alternative sources can at best be expected to reduce somewhat the scale of housing needed to supply revenues for the park.

The Committee on Alternatives to Housing will meet this coming Tuesday, June 14, at 2:00 p.m., on the first floor of the Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Heights Branch, 280 Cadman Plaza West, to consider whether to submit BAE’s report to the full board. The public is invited to attend, but no comments from the public will be entertained. Public comments were received for a period following submission of the draft report in February until April 23 (see here).

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  • ABC

    is there anyone who thinks hiring these consultants was a good use of money?

    they won’t spend 10k on shade sails over the sand or water areas so kids can use them btw 10-4 but they’ll spend hundreds of thousands on this?

    I really, honestly don’t get it.

  • Reggie

    First off, ABC, it was a $100,000 contract, not “hundreds of thousands.” Secondly, doing this analysis was a condition of getting the state legislature to sign-off on the transfer the park from the state to the city. So that is an entirely different pot of money than “shade sails,” whatever the heck those are.

  • ABC

    Well, ok. I know it was 100k fee plus expenses, no? I guess i’ll look forward to seeing what the final number was in the financials.

    And while it’s true the park had to explore alternate revenue sources, but they didn’t have to do this study per se — or hire this firm. But I hear you.

    I hate the “different piles of money” thing. But okay.

    I get that you don’t know what shade sails are but they are in the same pot of money as the 40k burning domes that were removed. I have a good idea, let’s take the 40k from the domes and spend it on shades sails.

  • Livingston

    Good consultants are not cheap. You’re paying for the intellectual capital they bring to the table and a structured analysis plus developing the financials. Not a “gut feeling”. Plus there were several iterations, pubic meetings, private meetings, etc. All this takes time and effort in order to develop solid information so the BBPC is confident and can make an informed decision about the future business model of the park.

    Think of it this way, ABC — this study allows the BBPC to make a decision that will maximize the potential revenues for the park. So that in the future it will be more likely they can afford to buy the shade sails and all the other goodies you may crave — as well as keeping the park in tip top shape for the general public.

  • Government

    Sounds like ABC & Livingston are overpaid consultants themselves!

    Probably want $10K for posting their comments here.

  • bklyn20

    Sorry, but the BBPC had already made its decision months or even years ago. And the consultant (BAE) is not a pro-park entity; their specialty, which can be found on the opening page of their website, is:

    “bae is an award-winning urban economics and public-benefit real estate development consulting practice. Since 1986, we have served more than 1,700 clients including public agencies, non-profit organizations, and private developers throughout the U.S. We are a certified green business, a women-owned business, and employee-owned (ESOP).”

    If the study was a waste of money, it is because the wrong consultant was chosen. A more appropriate use of the $100,000 would have been a consultant that actualy specialized in PARKS, and not in developers.

  • ABC

    My only wish is that the money is wisely spent. They spend 50k a day, 365 for that park. It’s lovely to look at. I don’t want “goodies” — I just want it to be more than a park planners vision.

    My only big complaints about this park so far have been (1) the domes that broke noses and burnt kids and eventually led to a lawsuit (too bad they didn’t remove them after the first weekend when people cried out — literally). And (2) the lack of any shade at Pier 6 which makes that area almost unusable during peak daytime hours for you kids.

    Okay, some bonus complaints: I hate those boulders in sand village that get covered in sand and can’t be seen and then kids trip on them and cut their heads open. Last weekend, in the space of one hour, I saw TWO kids do this and get taken to LICH for stitches on their faces. I also hate the gravel which is too hot to stand on without shoes (like the kids in sand village) and if you fall on it, gets IN your knees.

    Government, I don’t want the park’s money. I make plenty of money doing what I do. I only want a park that isn’t a health hazard. I remember when people here laughed off the domes thing. How much will that arrogance cost the park I wonder?

  • Lazy

    Bklyn 20 – I’m impressed that you actually went ahead and did some research and went to BAE’s website. Of course you ignore the fact that while this study is definitely about parks, more specifically it’s about how to fund the operation of the park. So maybe it IS important to have a consultant who is an expert on finance and economics, which BAE certainly is. Also, if you had only stayed on BAE’s website for more than 45 seconds and clicked your mouse 3 more times, you would have wound up on the page detailing their VAST experience consulting on parks, including studies on the Highline, Governor’s Island, East River Waterfront, California State Parks,The National Park Service, the Presidio, a couple of skateboard parks in VA, etc. I think that list (which is only partial) pretty clearly identifies them as economics consultants who have a very large and impressive sub specialty in operating budgets for Parks. Also, keep in mind that Squadron’s chief of Staff was on the committee that UNANIMOUSLY selected BAE to be the consultant on this study. I’m sorry that you didn’t get the result that you had predetermined was correct on this study – but trying to cast aspersions on BAE’s qualifications is a silly road to go down and only makes you look like you’re desperately grasping for straws to discredit the results of this study.

  • DEF

    ABC – the notion that Pier 6 is unusuble during peak daytime hours is laughable. Have you been at Pier 6 on a sunny weekend day? There are literally 5,000+ kids running around having the time of their life. Yes, there is little shade, but there are tons of trees and over time they will grow in and provide shade. In the meantime, they’ve put up umbrellas near the picnic tables to provide some relief.

    Also, you know what would give that Pier a ton of shade? Building a 30 story residential building on one of those development sites. One more benefit of the current financing plan…

  • bklyn20

    Lazy, please try counting on your fingers before you accuse anyone of grasping at straws.

    But first of all, I didn’t say BAE was a lousy group. Criticizing the choice of BAE is different from besmirching BAE itself. I said they were very much development-oriented and were chosen by the BBPC for that very reason. Yes, Squadron had representatives present, but perhaps they picked their battles. I am not on the CAH — are you? The CAH is largely peopled by developers and real estate interests. This further slants the process.

    The study parameters given to BAE by the CAH were designed to minimize the possibility of revenue from non-housing sources. How this is the case when the current real estate in the park is less than 50% occupied, I cannot fathom. Perhaps the saying for this is “If it’s broke, don’t fix it?!”

    After looking at the BAE site many times, from the time BAE was chosen until now, it is clear that they are a development-oriented group. My qoute was their initial mission statement. That is how BAE chooses to characterize themselves. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, and then SAYS it’s a duck, then it is …

    Upon further investigation of the BAE site, one can see that the parks “tab” contains 3 park studies and one of a farmers’ market/marketplace and the possibility of putting it into a building. On the other website tabs are listed many more studies on development-related areas. The non-park work is comprised of 20 projects, and 21 if you count the marketplace study. Thus, there are 3 park projects and 21 non-park projects listed. Making 7 times more non-park projects than actual park projects.

    Oh, and here’s what BAE, in their own words, did for Governor’s Island:

    “Governors Island Development Solicitation and Advisory Services
    BAE served as a member of the Development Advisory Services team engaged to assist GIPEC with
    its evaluation of forthcoming developer submittals as well as ongoing advisory services. BAE was
    selected as a member of the team based on its national experience and depth of work in public-
    BAE Experience: Parks & Community Facilities
    private partnerships throughout the U.S. We reviewed a set of development proposals received for
    the Island, and are working on an implementation strategy for first phases of reuse. ”

    Four uses of the word “development” in one paragraph. It’s what they do, and we paid for it.

  • Lazy

    So you’re sticking to this notion that BAE is not a pro-parks entity. Then I’ve got nothing to say to you. I can only show you the truth. I don’t know what you mean about 3 studies – I know for a fact that BAE has worked on DOzen’s of Parks projects and are widely viewed in the industry as experts at figuring out how to fund Parks. Having an expert on park horticulture would not be useful on this project – it is all about financing, so the Governor’s Island study is very relevant. Have you ever been to a BBP board meeting? the notion that Sqaudron and his rep “pick their battles”. Raskin
    pipes up with a comment about every single board item, no matter how mundane. You are grasping at straws. Not sure if you’re trying to convince yourself or others, but you’re failing miserably on the latter.

  • Government

    Need to get your corporatist/real-estate-developing agenda through?

    Then hire consultants who tout themselves as exceedingly politically correct: “a certified green business, a women-owned business, and employee-owned (ESOP).”

    Have them limit the scope of their study to “revenue.”

    Pay them lots of money.


  • ABC

    DEF, have you seen those kids during peak hours? most of them have to be dressed in head to toe sun suits with hat. the daytrippers who don’t know the situation are in trouble. sit in the sandbox and talk to the parents and you might get a better understanding of how the people who are using the park feel.

    About this post’s topic tho, it just seems like a waste of 100k. They got the answer they paid for. You’ll get your towers!

  • DEF

    If it’s so miserable, why do they keep coming back? Yiou sound like Yogi Berra (Noone goes to that restaurant anymore, it’s too crowded). I acknowledge that it’s very hot in that park, But guess what – that’s what happens when you build a new park – it takes the trees a couple of years to grow in to provide shade. I’m sure prospect park was very sunny in the late 1800’s. It’s still absurd to call a jam-packed park unusable, when literally thousands of people are using it every day.

    I agree with you that the study was a waste of money, but the anti-housing folks demanded it to try and prove that there were other ways to fund this park. Now that the study didn’t give them the answer they wanted, they are claiming it was a waste of money. Hypocrisy at it’s finest.

  • bklyn20

    Sorry to say you’re wrong, but I never wrote that BAE was anti-park, just that parks per se were not their main concern. And yes, a group with a hortculturist involved might have been useful, as the horticulturist could have come up with reasonable figures for planting and plant maintenance in the park budget… if they had been allowed to study that.

    As for facts, BAE’s OWN WEBSITE lists far more non-park than park projects. What someone “knows for a fact ” is all well and good…but isn’t the company’s own site a more reliable source? Anyone can read about the 3 parks studied by BAE by looking at the site. Again, it lists 3 parks and 1 marketplace study. Not too hard to figure out, unless of course you, like the BBPC, don’t want to address any disagreeable facts.

    You know, I’ve been to many BBP-related meetings and hearings over the past decade or more. Yet I can’t go to BBP Corp board meetings because they are held during the day, when most people have to earn a living. It’s a great way to limit public involvement, no? Of course, if you have a very flexible job — say, realtor? — then you can go to all the daytime meetings you like.

    Last, or lastly for now, the study would have given different answers had the parameters been different. The anti-housing folks demanded a study of alternatives, but since the BBP Corp and CAH dictated the terms (Raskin notwithstanding) most of the possible alternatives were not studied. So BAE came up with more housing as the answer when the building in the park already can’t sell its apartments!

    CB2, CB6 and the BBP Corp’s very own CAC made resolutions to study the Witness buildings and other possibilities. Will the BBP Corp listen to that? Local electeds signed a letter to the same effect. Yet the BBP Corp continues on its blind march to Condoland, so as to create the most expensive park possible, one that only a realtor could love.

  • Lazy

    First of all the website lists more than 3 parks projects for BAE. I listed almost half a dozen before and all of those come from their website. Also, because I work in a related field (not as a realtor), I happen to be familiar with these type of consulting firms and can tell you that people who know this industry will all agree that BAE is among the top 3 firms in this field qualified in consulting on parks. The fact that you have no background in this field only means that you shouldn’t be opining on who is and isn’t qualified. No you didn’t say that BAE is anti-parks, but you said they were “not pro-park” are you really going to split those kind of hairs? Ask any of their dozens of parks clients if they are or are not a strong advocate for parks. I can guarantee you the answer will be yes. Again, just because you don’t know something, doesn’t mean it’s not true. It just means that you don’t know it. And my mom taught me not to loudly criticize people who are doing something that I clearly don’t know anything about. I wish my mom had taught that to you too.

    Also you conveniently keep on ignoring one very important fact – you claim that this whole process (which excludes looking at expenses and also excludes looking at things that would redirect funds that would otherwise go to the city) was rigged by the pro-housing folks. The only problem with that argument is that this whole process was designed by the biggest anti-housing advocate there is: squadron.

    The fact is squadron demanded doing this study. In doing so he agreed to those parameters. No one had a problem with them until the study came back showing that there are only marginal revenue sources that do not include either housing or redirecting tax revenues. No one had a problem with BAE either until the results came in. Now everyone who demanded that the study be done and who agreed to the parameters and agreed to BAE. Now all of a sudden, everyone is backpedaling in a desperate attempt to discredit the very study that they demanded be done in the first place. It’s transparent and pathetic.
    Since 2000, the City has said that they will not use tax revenues to pay for this park. This is not a new position. Using watchtower real estate taxes violates this position. CB2, CB6 and anyone else can criticize it all they want, but the city is responsible for dividing up taxes to pay for services, not them. In the current environment it is not only rude, it is downright despicable to say that the city should forgo revenues from the watchtower properties that could go towards paying for more teachers, more cops, or services for the homeless just so folks in cobble hill and brooklyn heights don’t have to look at a couple of apartment buildings as they walk into their brand new waterfront park. And that is actually why this whole discussion is just silly. People are hungry, homeless, and jobless – and yet you still have the gall to get all worked up because your beautiful park is not being funded exactly as you want it to.

  • Stillhere

    Lazy, you are not.

    I believe the brief of the original BBP planners in the early 1990’s was that the park would be self-sustaining.

  • bklyn20

    Stillhere, the original plan for the park (earlier than the 90s) was that the park would be self-sustaining in its operations and maintenance. It was agreed by all that this meant mowing the grass and trimming the trees. It did NOT mean maintaining structures and buildings, and definitely not maintenance of the piers. I am in frequent contact with people who were involved in the park since its inception, before the underhanded introduction of housing — and the change in the formula for what “maintenance and operations ” means.

  • Jeffrey j Smith

    Back up and see what is really happening here…..

    A group of mice are placed in a maze. They find how to negotiate the twists and turns, they at times compete and at times cooper-
    ate, they find short cuts in the maze system and they achieve
    the ability to go through the maze faster and acquire more com-
    plex familiarity with the structure of the maze.

    But mice never, ever, ask the basic questions:

    Why am I in this maze?

    Who designed and built this Maze I am in?

    Who placed me in this Maze?

    This is the way social and political control mechanisms work. They get you involved in a complex structure. Working on a stimulating project for what seems to be of lasting social and civic importance.

    But the project is structured with deliberate complexity to cause those involved to enter the classic contained and controled condition. It also is very effective at diverting those who become involved from current civic, financial or political conditions which intelligent people under normal circumstances would, quite properly, react to as being a serious threat to the safety of
    their country.

    The most intelligent, the best educated and most highly cultured are ALWAYS a severe danger to anyone who is installing a control mechanism, be it local, national or on a world wide basis…
    For that reason, complex, time consuming, attention diverting seemingly valid cause, activity structures are always constructed.

    But human can think, and ask the key questions;

    Why am I here? Who placed me here?

    Who designed and built the maze (or system) I am in?

  • GaryVP

    Bklyn 20

    I was the last joiner to the original Coalition board (1995) and the matter of pier maintenance actually did come up when the Port Authority had repaired the piers for the final hand-off to whom ever would be the new owner, presumably a new park entity. PA spent 20+ million (late 1990’s) for those repairs and noted that that was it for pier funding and future maintenance rested with the next owner. While it was understood that the ‘mow the grass’ maintenance was certainly in the self-staining ‘agreement’, no one could rule out with any certainty that capital maintenance was to be excluded from maintenance. I saw no document at that time stating that capital and pier maintenance was excluded. And who could’ve made such a guarantee? More than one board member had raised concerns about this possibility. But it was rarely, if ever, talked about; it was easier to assume otherwise. And we did.

    BTW – We were not alone in our optimism – Hudson River Park had made the same assumptions.

  • bklynlifer


    The mayor got the vote he paid for so he can plow ahead with his legacy-building public-private vision of parks-cum-luxury housing. Just like his legacy-building public-private vision of education — built on lies, exaggerations, distortions and a public process rigged to get what he wants.

    Residents of those luxury condos will be rich people whose payments IN LIEU of taxes will contribute to park maintenance. But, unlike the rest of us “little people,” THESE FOLKS WILL NOT PAY REAL ESTATE TAXES. They will not pay for the fire and police services they will use. They will not pay for the public schools which are already overcrowded. Their tax money will be diverted to BBP, but they will cost the rest of us dearly.

    This is the biggest scam of all — Bloomberg is getting the taxpayers of NYC to subsidize rich people’s consumption of public services.

    That’s what’s going on, folks. EVERY local elected official sought consideration of the Watchtower option, as did BOTH local community boards (CB2 and CB6) and the Community Advisory Council the BBP Board set up to provide advice! Just about every local community organization supported studying the Watchtower option, too, including the Brooklyn Heights Association, certainly no wild-eyed radical group there!

    But the BBP Board was certainly not going to allow that to happen. After all, as Councilmembers Lander and Levin pointed out, the Watchtower option might actually bring in far MORE money than the park needed for its bloated “maintenance” budget, and we wouldn’t have to be filling up the “park” with high rise condo’s. Oh, no! The mayor wouldn’t get his luxury condos built — the centerpiece of his brilliant public-private parks strategy, and a key element of what he thinks will be his legacy.

    It’s sad to watch a group of highly intelligent men — albeit ALL of them employees of the mayor — gladly do the bidding of this autocratic man, in the expectation that he will use his vast wealth to reward them now and in the years to come. I hope they get to enjoy their just desserts.