BHA Takes a Tobacco Warehouse Victory Lap

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.

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  • Cranberry Beret

    Michael, your petty and vituperative tirade against the BHA cabal would be laughable if it weren’t so hate-filled. How do you know “BHA people” hardly venture into DUMBO? What secret mark do they all carry on their foreheads that allows you to recognize them? As for the Landmarks Conservancy, well maybe for its next act, the BHA can try selling them a bridge, if they’re such dupes. I’m taking a wild leap here, but I think there might be 1 or 2 people on their board who are familiar with DUMBO. And as for Boymelgreen – I suspect the phrase “two wrongs don’t make a right” might be familiar to the federal judge hearing this case.

  • Dillard Stone

    Ten years from now in DUMBO: collapsed ruins, deserted storefronts, condos worth only a fraction of their purchase price. “But we saved the park!” Yeah, congrats on that. It’s possible to be technically correct but seriously misguided.

  • Arch Stanton

    Dear Dillard Stone, the 2021 scenario you postulate may indeed come to pass, However, the cause won’t be the BHA, it will be fruition of human greed.

  • Michael M Thomas

    re Cranberry Beret:
    From your post, I infer that your headwear of choice is now made in size Pinhead.
    Do I hate the BHA? Indeed, I do. The street on which I live is losing a wonderful cultural ornament, as is the neighborhood and possibly the borough – and losing it thanks to the “hate-filled” (your word) posturing of a kind of busybody whom I leaned to appreciate during my years in Sag Harbor. You should consider moving there. You’ll find many happy NISEBY (Not In Someone Else’s Backyard) types to draw up petitions with.
    There isn’t a judge in the world who would rule that “two wrongs make a right.” I simply ask where the BHA was in 2003 when Boymelgreen was awarded development rights to the Empire Stores, structures within the NPS map and certainly comparable in landmark quality to the TW (perhaps more so, since I don’t recall the TW being immortalized by Berenice Abbott in 1936). The BHA attitude seems to be: anyone else, it’s OK but if it’s Walentas, it’s not. St.Ann’s is simply collateral damage in the BHA’s rage over its failure to stop the Dock Street Project.

  • Fritz

    Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher law firm wins again. Their biggest win was selecting George W.Bush to be president.

  • zburch

    I don’t understand why the BHA put so much energy into stopping St. Ann’s whilst not blinking an eye regarding the proposed high rises within the park.

  • Michael M Thomas

    Those who wished to see the BHA’s vision for the TW made flesh should have been here this past weekend, when the TW was one of two main venues for the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, which was staged on two virtually adjacent (perhaps fifty yards apart) fully- amped sound stages: one in the TW, the other to the southwest in the parking lot. What made it artistically exciting was that two bands played simultaneously, which made for a cacophonous uproar that may not have been audible in the Heights, or in Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton, where many leading lights of the BHA take their summer weekend ease, but which made an unholy racket hereabouts. I had visions of Judy Stanton and others of her ghastly cohort chained to the fence a la Prometheus and obliged to endure the uproar. Only a vision, perhaps, but only with such fragments can those of us who actually live here recompense ourselves for what the future holds for our neighborhood.