Last evening’s Community Meeting got off to an interesting start when Brooklyn Heights resident and long time Brooklyn Bridge Park advocate Tony Manheim asked State Senator Daniel Squadron if, now that in a deal brokered in part by Squadron and Assemblywoman Joan Millman, the State has given control of the Park to the City, he and Millman would consider yielding their nominees’ position on the Park’s board to representatives appointed by the Mayor. He also asked if Squadron thought it now appropriate to have the Park’s management “collapsed into” the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. Squadron said he was “not excited” about giving up his slot on the board, but that Manheim’s ideas were “conceptually interesting.” Another person suggested that, instead of mayoral nominees, the board slots go to community representatives.
Things later took a heated turn when Marsha Rimler, after first saying she was “very disappointed” with Squadron’s handling of the housing-in-the-Park issue, asked Squadron if he would refer to the “board of ethics” (by which she presumably meant the New York State Commission on Public Integrity) the question whether his wife’s job in the Mayor’s office constituted a conflict of interest when he dealt with the City on this issue. Squadron said he considered this question “out of bounds,” and went on to say that he had negotiated zealously with the City and got it to agree to allow tax payments on the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ properties to be used for Park maintenance and operations, which the City had strongly resisted, and to defer any residential construction at Pier 6 until the next mayoral administation. Squadron also said that in his negotiations with the City he had helped to secure many amenities for the Park, including a skating rink, a floating swimming pool, and the Pier 5 “bubble” which, he said, he thought would become a reality despite the lack of responses to what he said was obviously a “flawed” initial Request for Proposals.
David Manning, who moved to the Heights from Manhattan hoping for peace and quiet, raised the issue of helicopter noise. Squadron said he had “worked in good faith” with the operators of the Downtown Heliport to try to find a workable solution, but that “good faith didn’t work.” He has now concluded that only a complete ban on tourist helicopter flights will work and, to groans from the audience, urged everyone to “keep chopping away.” A former Federal Aviation Administration official and Lower Manhattan resident said that this was the first time he had ever advocated curtailing aviation, but he believed that the tourist flights should be ended because they are “unsafe” and do not, contrary to what some City officials have said, contribute anything to the City’s economy because the operators are based in New Jersey and do all maintenance, repairs, refueling and the like there. Squadron added that the assertion that some people come to New York just to take a helicopter ride “doesn’t pass the laugh test.” Judy Stanton, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, said a request for the City’s economic data on the helicopter flights had been made under the Freedom of Information Act. She also said the State Department of Environmental Conservation should monitor both air quality and noise at the heliport. Squadron said this was a good idea.
Squadron noted that the residential parking permits proposal faced a long and tortuous path before it could become reality. First the City Council, following this morning’s (Wednesday) hearing, would have to pass a “home rule message” asking the State for authority to issue the permits. The State Assembly and Senate would then have to pass enabling legislation, which would then go to the Governor for signature. If the legislation was enacted, the City Council would then have to pass an ordinance putting the scheme into effect. He said he viewed this as a quality of life issue, because “people driving around looking for parking spaces” has negative effects on congestion, safety, and air quality. He said Mayor Bloomberg had supported the idea when it was coupled with congestion pricing, but that the failure of congestion pricing to pass meant he no longer favored resdential permits. A story in today’s New York Post says that Brooklyn GOP State Senator Marty Golden opposes residential parking permits on the grounds that they constitute a “tax,”and that anyone should be allowed to park where they wish (Update: Could this also be because his rather convoluted district has more people who park their cars in Brooklyn Heights to get to the subway than has people from out of the area parking on their streets?) He said that the proposal would never pass the GOP controlled Senate. The same article quotes Bloomberg as now being undecided on the issue, noting that some residents favor the permits while some merchants oppose them. Update: The “home rule message” passed the City Council’s Committee on State and Federal Legislation today.
Transportation related issues dominated the rest of the discussion. Among the issues raised were: restoration of bus service over the
Brooklyn Manhattan Bridge, improvement of security at the High Street subway station, better sevice on the G train, which Squadron said was the next line he would press the MTA to improve, and safety at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street, where one person present said a cupcake vending truck creates a hazardous condition for pedestrians crossing.
Squadron also said he supports the campaign to establish a public middle school to serve students from Brooklyn Heights and nearby neighborhoods. He concluded by urging everyone to attend his next Community Convention, to be held early next year.