State Court Rules Bloomberg Administration and State Acted Improperly in Tobacco Warehouse Transfer

While the attempted turnover of the Tobacco Warehouse for use as a new home for St. Ann’s Warehouse Theater was effectively stopped by a federal court’s decision in July (and St. Ann’s has found a new, if temporary, home in DUMBO), a New York State court ruled in a parallel action brought by the same plaintiffs as the federal one–the Brooklyn Heights Association, the Fulton Ferry Landing Association, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, and the Preservation League of New York State–that the actions of both the city and state governments in transferring the historic structure were a “nullity because [they] violated New York’s public trust doctrine.”

Judy Stanton, Executive Director of the BHA, said:

We knew that our fight to save the Tobacco Warehouse for the public was necessary and that the defense of the public trust in this case was the right thing for the Brooklyn Heights Association to do. We feel doubly rewarded by Justice Vaughan’s decision to uphold it.

BHA President Jane McGroarty said:

We hope everyone will now agree that the Tobacco Warehouse is exactly where it belongs and that a precedent has been set that sends a strong message: public spaces and are for all of the public to enjoy and attempts to take away any of it will be met with action by community groups and the courts.

Joan Zimmerman, President of the Fulton Ferry Landing Association, said:

Historically, it’s fallen to us, the community, to step forward to protect the Tobacco Warehouse from being snatched from the public. This victory for public land – not once, but twice affirmed by the court, is incredibly gratifying and will stand as a precedent for years to come.

The decision was also praised by State Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblywoman Joan Millman.

Update: Haley Stein, Esq., Senior Counsel in the City’s Law Department, who served as lead counsel for the City in the case, had this to say:

This decision is a major setback toward improving the park and prevents the City and Brooklyn Bridge Park from moving forward with a project that would provide funding for the long-term preservation of the Tobacco Warehouse. The State transferred Tobacco Warehouse to Brooklyn Bridge Park without parkland restrictions, and we continue to believe that the community would greatly benefit from its re-use as a cultural and community center. The decision also hinders plans to rehabilitate and re-use Empire Stores — a series of enclosed warehouse buildings that are in need of preservation and are not usable by the public. The redevelopment of Empire Stores as a commercial and retail space is vital to providing revenue for the operation and maintenance of the park. We disagree with the decision and are considering our legal options.

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  • Elmer Fudd

    Let them eat cake, said the Queen.

  • Eddyenergizer

    I think Brian’s comments are spot on.

  • bklyn20

    Let us not forget that the Walenti were going to develop the site where the carousel had been lodged for several years. They needed a new location so they could generate revenue from the building where the carousel was stored. Nor should we forget that the marquee attraction of the carousel — the dramatically backlit nighttime horse silhouettes revolving behind the white scrim. Evidently that feature has been axed, as the hot lights are damaging the paint on the wooden horses.

    (Too bad that a lot of unpainted wood was also axed when several beautiful old trees — beloved by Brooklynites of all ages — were ripped out of the earth to clear the way for this carousel. I know I remember children climbing in them on PS 8 Field Days and at friends’ picnics.)

    I think I read that the carousel is claimed to have 1,000 visitors a week at $2.00/person, or $8,000 per month. NONE of that revenue goes into the park; it all goes to maintain the carousel.

    The electric bill without the big lights must be much lower these days. How about putting the cost savings back into the park?? Every little bit helps if we want to eliminate additional housing in the park — at least that’s one of my goals.

    Interestingly, the gift horses have their mouths firmly shut on this one.

  • Eddyenergizer

    So bklyn20 in other words your are saying “we can’t look the gift horse in the mouth”.

  • bklyn20

    No, someone should have hired an equine periodontist before that carousel went into the park.

    The issue is that “we,” ie the BBPC park planners, just accepted the gift without consulting the public or examining its impact on the park. I am pushing the saying too far, or using it incorrectly, but the carousel was a gift horse because it (like the TW situation?) was just accepted into the park with no public process. No one could opine on the carousel, its location, or the obliteration of a popular park to install that carousel. Or they could have opinions, but they made no difference to the BBPC.

    Yes, milllions of dollars were given to the park — to shore up the corner where the carousel was going.

    No one “looked the gift horse in the mouth” and the end result was destruction of venerable trees, a venue that makes no money for the park, a glassy box that detracts from the Brooklyn Bridge, and a building that does not even function as promised. Private interests should not be allowed to take over public parks.

  • Eddyenergizer

    That’s what I was implying…

  • bklyn20

    Sorry, Eddie. All synapses are not firing at 12:00 am.