Court Nixes St. Ann’s Use of Tobacco Warehouse

Last April, Judge Eric Vitaliano of the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction against the transfer of the Tobacco Warehouse in the Fulton Ferry Historic to St. Ann’s Warehouse as a new home for its theater and performing arts space. On Tuesday, as expected, he reaffirmed his earlier decision.

The New York Times: Citing environmental protection and conservation law, Judge Vitaliano ruled that it was “crystal clear” the [National P]ark [S]ervice acted outside its authority by removing both the Tobacco Warehouse and Empire Stores, another waterfront structure in Dumbo, from classification as federally designated parkland.

The Times story quotes the lawyer for St. Ann’s as saying no appeal is planned, and Susan Feldman, artistic director of St. Ann’s, as saying they are looking at spaces in Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan (St. Ann’s must vacate its present space by next May to make way for construction of the controversial Dock Street building). However, an earlier Times story quoted Ms. Feldman a saying:

It leaves us maybe having to leave Dumbo. Perhaps even leaving Brooklyn. None of us want that, but the theater we do at St. Ann’s doesn’t easily fit into pre-existing spaces that we’ve seen, and we want to continue to do that work.

Photo: mcbrooklyn.

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  • AEB

    Let us hope that St. Ann’s, a HAPPENING cultural resource, finds a nearby home.

  • Bye Bye

    And when they fail to find a nearby home and are forced to leave the neighborhood and maybe even Brooklyn, let us all be aware of the fact that this didn’t have to happen, and let us lay the blame for loss of this cultural resource exactly where it belongs – at the feet of the Brooklyn Heights Association. Good job guys! Let’s see, an award winning cultural institution plans on investing $15 million to rehabilitate a historic building in a tasteful way using a top notch architect in a way that will add vitality and energy to the wonderful park that is being built on our doorstep…. how can stop this? Oh i see, an obscure provision from a law I never heard of until 10 minutes ago does not seem to have been followed to the letter – I’ll pretend that I’m outraged and demand justice!

  • Common Sense

    Very well stated, Bye Bye!

    What an absurd & sickening loss!!!

  • Livingston

    This is a huge loss to the community. The BHA is never getting another $ from me again –ever.

  • Hicks St Guy

    I like St Ann’s Warehouse, and I hate to see them go. They’ve got to find another place. That being said, I don’t want to see park property, from any level govt., leaving the public domain, and sorry, the law is the law.

  • Bye Bye

    Hicks St Guy – do you have a problem with the Metropolitan Museum of Art being located on land owned by Central Park? Of the Theater where they put on Shakespeare in the Park? Or SummerStage? Or any other of a dozen examples of cultural organizations who have been allowed to build and occupy land in parks throughout the City? Same thing buddy. There is a significant difference between a private developer and a non-profit cultural institution, a distinction which the plaintiffs in this lawsuit willfully neglected. Also, the completely ignore that the St Ann’s proposal included the development of community space within the facility which was to be used by other non-profit and community groups. It is a complete mis-characterization to describe the St Ann’s facility as “private”. It would have been a very open and welcoming cultural institution that anchored the Park. That’s just good urban planning.

  • Mickey

    Bye Bye — the difference is that in the examples you cited the land is still legally parkland. In the case at hand, the land was being taken away from the park. So to that end, why can’t St. Ann’s use the land in DUMBO under the same type of arrangement that lets MMA use Central Park land? That would allow them to stay and do what they do best without violating environmental protection and conservation laws.

  • Carol

    Bye Bye
    Isn’t it important that the judge knows the law not that you learned something ten minutes ago? But on a more serious note, those who wanted to convert parkland into a private theater (an exciting avant garde theater but not publicaly controlled) had the obligation to follow the rules and choose not to do so.

  • Livingston

    @ Carol, Mickey:

    Your arguments remind me of the story of the man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

    BTW, it’s not parkland (as in green space for the kiddies to play on). The Tobacco Warehouse is concrete and brick and usually off-limits, esp. if there is a private event. Believe it or not, the St. Ann’s proposal would have converted it into far a more accessible and functional space.

  • Mickey

    Livingston, does the Metropolitan Museum look very green to you? Then answer my original question: why can’t St. Ann’s use the land in DUMBO under the same type of arrangement that lets MMA use Central Park land? Why does the land have to be transferred into private hands? I know the value of St. Ann’s staying in DUMBO, which is why I’m trying to find a way to keep them there without breaking the law.

  • Bye Bye

    Mickey – the land under the tobacco warehouse would still be owned by brooklyn bridge park. It was going to be leased to St Ann’s. I don’t know the details of the legal relationship between central park and the met, but I’m betting it’s also a lease or a lease-like structure. No one is “giving” St Ann’s any property – the land is still owned and controlled by the Park. SO now you have to come up with a new argument.

  • Mickey

    No … WE have to come up with a new way to keep St. Ann’s in DUMBO.

  • Bye Bye

    No. YOU have to come up with a new argument as to why the BHA wasn’t acting like a bunch of self entitled jerks in posing this lawsuit.

    WE have to make sure that everyone knows that reason we are going to loose St Ann’s in this community is because of these selfish actions.

    I supported and continue to support the phenomenal idea of having St Ann’s redevelop the shell of the Tobacco Warehouse into a wonderful cultural and community facility. I did my part. Tell Jane McGroarty to fix her own mess.

  • Mickey

    It was never my intention to defend the BHA’s actions in this matter, but the fact today is that the court ruled in their favor. You’re getting snippy with me for no reason. Jane McGroarty isn’t going to fix anything. She’s gloating over her victory right now. Now, if WE (meaning the larger community) want to keep St. Ann’s local, preferrably in the Tobacco Warehouse, we need to find an alternate way to do so. I still say that it is worth discovering how the MMA and Central Park managed to make their arrangement work and try to replicate it.

  • Livingston

    @ Mickey:

    And you think Jane McGloaty isn’t going to come up with a new lawsuit if someone floats a Plan B? The BHA seems to have pretty deep pockets along with their petty agenda. They’re not interested in a solution, otherwise we would not be having this discussion.

  • Mickey

    So, Livingston, you’re giving up … as Bye Bye apparently is, too? Your statement makes me fear that there is more to this than I am aware. I thought the BHA’s motives were pure (I know!) in wanting this to be done legally. Is there an animosity or political agenda of which I am unaware?

    Bye Bye makes me out to be an enemy, but I’m really just trying to find a way to keep St. Ann’s local without violating any laws.

  • Dillard Stone

    Mickey, St. Ann’s itself has given up on the Tobacco Warehouse. The process is too long and onerous to try to make it work at this point, especially with the BHA lurking in the background. In her letter, Susan Feldman has confirmed that St. Ann’s will definitely be leaving DUMBO. The only question is whether it can find space elsewhere.