Last year, neighborhood and preservation organizations, including the Brooklyn Heights Association, prevailed in lawsuits in both federal and state courts in which they contested the actions of the National Park Service and the city and state governments to transfer the Tobacco Warehouse site from Brooklyn Bridge Park for use as a new home for St. Ann’s Warehouse Theater, as well as the Empire Stores building for possible commercial development. Following the court decisions, BHA and the other successful plaintiffs began negotiations with city and state officials to establish rules governing possible development of these sites. Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg announced that an agreement had been made under which, among other things, additional land will be added to Brooklyn Bridge Park should the Tobacco Warehouse and Empire Stores be made available for non-park use.
According to BHA President Jane McGroarty, the principal provisions of the agreement are:
* There will be 38,000 square feet of new parkland in DUMBO for Brooklyn Bridge Park. This is significant since the initial attempt to develop the Tobacco Warehouse did not include any replacement parkland. If we do not believe that the substitute parkland is properly valued, we will have the right to submit an independent valuation to NPS during the conversion process.
* The agreement states that the National Park Service should decide the conversion issues on the merits, without political considerations.
* The BBPC must hold regular briefings for the community every two weeks during the conversion process, and place any correspondence about the conversion on its website. This is another major victory for us, as it ensures that any conversion process will be transparent.
* BBPC will keep the Tobacco Warehouse open to the public until any development takes place. Any construction plan will protect the historic character of the Tobacco Warehouse. The community will have a role in managing the use of the public space in the Tobacco Warehouse after any construction project is completed.
Ms. McGroarty expressed gratitude to the city and state officials who “graciously came to the table to partner with us.” She thanked Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation President Regina Myer and BHA member Hank Gutman “for their very constructive roles during the negotiation process.” She said “State Senator Daniel Squadron and Senate Assembly Member Joan Millman were also extremely helpful to us in forging the right result.”
It is clear from Ms. McGroarty’s statement that the BHA will not oppose adaptive re-use of the Tobacco Warehouse site, including its use as a space for St. Ann’s Warehouse, provided that it is done within the rules established by the agreement.
Photo: DUMBO NYC.