BHB Exclusive: Q & A with Martin Hale & Lori Schomp of People for Green Space

BHB: Despite the BBPC decision for a limited Environmental Impact Statement, does PFGS want a full EIS?

LS: We want nothing short of a full EIS. I think it’s important for people to realize that the Long Island City Hospital site will be going through ULURP [Uniform Land Use Review Process], the regular community planning process. The way they’ve structured BBP it has not gone through [the review].

BHB: But BBP was specifically set up to avoid this sort of public review so as to avoid lengthy delays.

LS: But why are you worried about delays? They can finish the park as they plan it today and fund those operations with the cash that they have.

The City has made it quite clear that they have unlimited financial resources with which to try and stop us from stopping the building! I feel like we’re chasing our tails at this point.

We are the little guy here. The park has 10 lawyers. The city has lots of resources, and…any financial model they want, they pick up the phone and a developer says, “Hey, what do you need?”—and then they do their work for them.

BHB: People for Green Space was able to get a temporary restraining order against further development in BBP. You just put out a lengthy document on park finances, which, as you just pointed out, took a great deal of time, effort, and money. PFGS is not your “Mom’s group fights City Hall” campaign.

LS: Seed money mostly came from Willowtown and Brooklyn Heights residents. We have no idea how much this is going to cost for fundraising. We’ve got some numbers that are astonishing.

MH: We are trying—this is expensive. So far we have had quite a few generous donors. A lot of people care about the effort.

We are the little guy here. The park has 10 lawyers. The city has lots of resources, and…any financial model they want, they pick up the phone and a developer says, “Hey, what do you need?”—and then they do their work for them.

There are two main vectors for change: social and legal. We believe we are winning the former and have an excellent shot at the latter.

LS: Our goal is for Brooklyn to have a world-class waterfront park. I think that’s what everybody wants. So at the end of the day I think we’re all going to land on the same page.

BHB: The Times and others have accused your organization of NIMBYism in regard to your efforts to halt housing on BBP Pier 6. How do you respond to this?

LS: Our answer has and will continue to be that we oppose building unnecessary private residences in what should be park space in perpetuity in a borough that’s the fastest growing in the entire city but with the least amount of park space.

MH: The NIMBY charges distract from the core issue of urban design, which transcends generations and income levels.

As board member Brent Ryan said: “The Times’ NIMBY/ ’pro‘ affordable housing argument is a cheap shot and badly flawed and simplistic. Affordable housing is an important social priority, but it in no way trumps other concerns like urban design, neighborhood character, park overcrowding, and overall bad development. If it did, we could toss all zoning regulations for anything that included affordable housing. The Times is basically saying if ‘it’s affordable, it doesn’t matter what it looks like.’”

This is a blood sport for people, and it’s very easy on blogs, especially anonymously, to shoot slings and arrows.

I don’t have anything to lose by that personally, so if someone needs to put their name out there, I’m willing to do it. Because I was willing to be on the record about this stuff, I got nominated to be chairman [of People For Green Space].

I believe passionately in what we’re doing. I don’t believe the NIMBY charges. There’s an element of political strategy to define your opponent before they define themselves. If I were to define the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp, I would characterize them as violating the public trust, of willful misconduct, potentially.

That’s serious. I think they are not fulfilling their duty as a public entity. And I think that will come out in court. And I’m willing to go after them on that.

The bottom line is we know this park is funded. They have not been transparent. They have not been truthful. At some point I am willing to suffer any slings and arrows of NIMBYism because what they are doing is fundamentally wrong.

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  • William Schomp

    Bringing decisions about development in their community to the people of that community should be one cornerstone of a democratic society. I support the people of Brooklyn Heights in their effort to engage in democracy. Vty, William Schomp.