Council Candidate Thies Has Park Funding Proposal

Evan Thies, a former aide to City Councilmember David Yassky and a candidate to succeed to Yassky’s seat in the 2009 election, announced in a column in Monday’s Daily News a plan for funding of Brooklyn Bridge Park and other parks that would not rely on revenues from condos or hotels built on park land. Since the present state of the economy has made financing unavailable for condos and a hotel proposed to be built on Brooklyn Bridge Park land to produce revenue for park maintenance, the question of park funding has become timely.

Thies’ proposal, in a nutshell, is to fund parks from the additional tax revenues the parks generate. As an example, he cites Hudson River Park, on the lower West Side of Manhattan.

According to Thies, the construction of Hudson River Park caused property values to rise, and inspired new construction, in neighborhoods adjacent to the Park. This resulted in additional tax revenue to the City, attributable to the Park, of $200 million within three years of the Park’s completion. Construction of the relevant portion of the Park cost $75 million. The Park, therefore, can be said to have paid for itself several times over, with plenty left to support maintenance.

The problem, according to Thies, is that the additional revenue attributable to the Park goes into general City funds rather than to parks. Thies’ proposal, as stated in his Daily News column, is as follows:

There is a better, fairer way to fund our parks—and it won’t cost us a dime. The City and State should automatically set aside a portion of the revenue created by parks for parks, instead of plowing it straight into the City’s coffers and leaving our open space vulnerable to budget cuts. The money could be used citywide to serve under-served communities, and to directly support the parks in neighborhoods with small tax bases, as well as areas with high property values. The City already assesses individual properties based on the value of other similar properties, so making comparisons to learn what new value a park creates and what value is simply a result of regular market shifts should not be difficult.

In the case of Brooklyn Bridge Park, it could be argued that the marginal tax revenue it is likely to generate is small in comparison to that generated by Hudson River Park, or by parks in other areas. The area adjacent to Brooklyn Bridge Park is already highly valued, and geography, along with historic district restrictions, forecloses the prospect of significant new construction in the Park’s immediate vicinity. Under Thies’ proposal, the portion of park-generated revenue earmarked for parks would not be apportioned to individual parks in proportion to their revenue contributions, so it is possible that revenue associated with other parks could be used to subsidize Brooklyn Bridge Park’s construction and maintenance, if the additional revenues it generated were not sufficient. How other neighborhoods, including those in other boroughs, would feel about such an outcome remains to be seen.

Thies is one of six announced candidates for the Council seat being vacated by Yassky, who is running for City Comptroller in this year’s election. The others are: Isaac Abraham; an activist in the Williamsburg Hasidic community; Ken Baer, former head of the New York State chapter of the Sierra Club; Ken Diamondstone, former New York Senate candidate; Stephen Levin, chief of Staff for Asemblyman Vito Lopez, and JoAnne Simon, Democratic Party District Leader.

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  • Tom S

    My proposal for funding Brooklyn Bridge won’t require additional funding, because it relies on Magical Park Elves, who come out and night and quietly build the park while we sleep.

  • nicky215

    the funding of the park is a very worthy subject. All options other thanjprivate housing should be explored. Evan has got all of us thinking. Good for him

  • Carlo Trigiani

    Mr. Thies’s idea makes sense and is yet another argument for supporting the Dock Street Project.

    Glad to see some good ideas coming from the Yassky camp.


  • Enquiring Minds


    Please explain your apparent non sequitur about how Mr. Thies’s idea is “yet another argument for supporting the Dock Street Project.”

    Also, we haven’t heard from you in a while–perhaps you were on vacation. In particular, we’d be interested to hear about what you think about the NY Times article a week ago that reported Two Trees declining to renew a lease for market rate rent for the 100+ children at the League Treatment Center.

    In particular, do you think this could be at all indicative of future Two Trees behavior with regard to the proposed middle school at the Dock St location?

  • Chester

    Anyone know if a certain community newspaper has renewed its twotrees lease?

  • Carlo Trigiani

    Dear all,

    I’m still here.

    Dock Street will improve the existing property and therefore increase the tax base which will help fund the maintenance of the park. That is consistent with candidate Thies’s argument.

    Furthermore, good schools increase property values. (No argument there.)

    I did read the Times article and am aware that this is a sensitive subject. Unfortunately for the Center, they don’t have a renewal option on their lease. I think Walentas is yet again being unfairly portrayed as the greedy developer who is only interested in lining his pockets. He’s given them a subsidy for 20 years in the form of below market rent. I’m sorry that the Center doesn’t have the right to renew.
    Hopefully they will find a suitable new space. Perhaps the DNA and BHA can step up and help them find it.

    The Center’s predicament is not analogous to the Dock Street Middle School proposal as the DOE can either take a 99-year lease at $1 a year or a condo interest in the space. Both options effectively equate to ownership – in real estate terms. We’re talking apples (a ten-year lease that was extended an additional ten years by the agreement of both parties) to oranges (an ownership interest). To imply that Walentas has another sinister plan in mind is ridiculous and desperate.


  • nabeguy

    Spoken like a true realtor…and completely missing the point that was being made. Carlo, the man is kicking out handicapped kids from a space for which, even by his own admission, he has no plans, even though they are willing to now pay market-rates. How does he stand to lose in this situation, other than to now look like Simon LeGree? Sorry Carlo, but nobody is trying to depict Walentas unfairly or greedy…no one really has to, as he’s seems to be doing quite a fine job of it on his own.

  • Carlo Trigiani

    Dear Phil,

    I’m not a realtor – I work in real estate, there’s a difference.

    I’m not missing the point. Perhaps you’re missing mine. Just because TT doesn’t extend the League Center’s tenancy in their building doesn’t make them bad people or anti-handicapped people. You and the opposition’s slander campaign is off the charts pal!

    I’d be willing to bet that Walentas has done more for charitable organizations than you, the BHA, the DNA, Beavis, Publius and David Yassky combined.

    If that’s an argument you’d like to pursue, bring it on.

  • nate

    you anti-dock street people are such ninnies.
    OOH, a new building…..bad, bad. New people ….bad, bad.
    New building taller than six stories, terrifying! How can we live near such a scary, scary new thing?
    People belong in four million dollar brownstones, that is what God intended.