A dispatch was sent out earlier today by Brooklyn Heights Association president Jane McGroarty in response to Judge Eric Vitaliano of the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York reaffirming his injunction against the transfer of the Tobacco Warehouse in the Fulton Ferry Historic to St. Ann’s Warehouse. Planners had hoped that it would be used as a new home for the theater and performing arts organization. Read it and comment after the jump.
Dear BHA Friends:
I am relieved to report to you that the BHA’s lawsuit in federal court has accomplished its purpose. Judge Eric Vitaliano has ruled in our favor. Judge Vitaliano states that his ruling “requires that the federal government keep its promise . . . that parkland developed or improved with federal taxpayers’ money will remain available for public use.” The full decision can be downloaded from our website.
For all of us this means that the Tobacco Warehouse and Empire Stores, which are subject to the protections accorded to any public parkland under federal regulation, may not be privately developed or in any way altered except under strict guidelines. Should the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation wish to develop or alter them for anything other than outdoor public recreation, it must apply to do so by meeting the standards set forth in guidelines promulgated by the National Park Service.
For some of you, this BHA action may have appeared divisive or regarded as a “mere technicality”, but I can assure you that the BHA Board was intent on upholding the law to protect what has been and must remain a public park. This was litigation that should and could have been avoided but – in this case – the involved government agencies were unwilling to concede their failure to follow applicable law. We thank Jim Walden and his Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher team for defending this principled cause, and we are proud to have our collective efforts vindicated by the courts.
I invite you to read through Judge Vitaliano’s opinion for a better understanding of the gravity of this case. Our fellow plaintiffs are the Fulton Ferry Landing Association (in whose historic district this case resides), the NYC Landmarks Conservancy and the NY State Preservation League. Click here for the opinion.
The BHA has a long history of involvement with our waterfront, beginning in the 1960s when our BHA predecessors blocked the City’s plans to develop a meat market in what is now enjoyed as part of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Soon afterwards in 1976, then BHA leaders convinced the Governor and NY State
Parks Department to purchase the land between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges (including the Tobacco Warehouse and Empire Stores) for the purpose of creating a maritime park. Today, the 19th century warehouses stand not just as evocative reminders of Brooklyn’s bygone days, but as an integral part of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Going forward, we hope that the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation will re-open the Empire Fulton Ferry State Park to the public, and resume the outdoor activities that were enjoyed in the Tobacco Warehouse before it was closed to the public.