Financial Hijinks and Verbal Fisticuffs Take Center Stage at Brooklyn Bridge Park CAC Meeting

The meeting of the Operations Committee of the Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Community Advisory Council on Wednesday night at the BBP’s offices on Furman Street started off slowly but finished with a bang as David McCarty, BBP’s Real Estate Project Manager, went toe-to-statistical-toe with Henry Richmond, a financial analyst for People For Green Space (PFGS), the upstart opposition group whose efforts apparently have gotten under the skin of Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation staff.

At the close of a seemingly mundane rehash of BBP finances to the park’s CAC–information that for the most part had been previously presented at a BBPC board meeting on August 6–an entirely new PowerPoint slide popped up on screen: a statistical analysis of a recent proposal by PFGS about how BBP is providing misleading financial information to the public.

Mr. McCarty and David Lowin, BBPC Vice President for Real Estate, then proceeded to dispute PFGS’ argument, primarily by suggesting that the Brooklyn Heights-based advocacy group take a primer in basic accounting principles. Suggesting that PFGS made numerous faulty assumptions in determining that expiring tax abatements at One Brooklyn Bridge Park—among other undisclosed revenue streams—will allow BBP to forgo revenue from the controversial Pier 6 construction project, McCarty and Lowin took turns criticizing at an analysis that has drawn attention from the press and—obviously—BBPC.

Ignoring jeers from People for Green Space supporters in the audience, including Martin Hale, board chair of the small but apparently influential non-profit, McCarty explained that PFGS’ analysis used different inflation rates on BBP revenue and expenses, thereby understating BBP expenses over the next 50 years by $350M; relied too heavily on corporate donations to overstate revenue by $32M; and understated maritime expenses–principally the cost of repairing and maintaining the pilings that support the piers–by $40M.

CAC members then had their opportunity to pick at Mr. McCarty’s comments, with many questioning exactly how the numbers all add up to. One persistent concern was a recent decision by BBPC board to sock away excess cash in a capital funding “rainy day” account; the first million for that fund was contributed this fiscal year. Mr. Lowin said that the plan is as much as $6 million per year–half the park’s current operating budget–will eventually be earmarked to maintain park infrastructure, a practice he said was adopted after examining the practices of other park conservancies.

This fund is separate from approximately $210 million allocated to maintain the park’s piers, a project which underlies all BBP financial considerations.

Doug Eisenstein, a CAC member from One Brooklyn Bridge Park, the first of the park’s luxury condominium projects that sustain park operations, suggested that there is perception that park financial numbers “are being geared to fit the housing need”–that is, to demonstrate that the park will run out of money if BBP doesn’t build the two Pier 6 towers, construction which PFGS opposes.

“The problem is that current projections don’t take into account the expiring of the abatements; when $80M is not explained where it’s going,“ said Mr. Eisenstein about increased revenues when his condo’s J-51 tax abatements expire in 2024. “It’s like a gallon pitcher trying to fit into a coffee cup” was Eisenstein’s colorful characterization of how potential Pier 6 revenue will impact a projected shortfall of BBP annual expenses.

The real fireworks began when the public was finally permitted to speak. Mr. Hale and Mr. Richmond of PFGS both questioned the lack of detail concerning revenues and expenses in BBP financial projections. Descending into accountant-speak, Richmond stated that the reason he used different inflation rates for revenues and expenses was due to real estate taxes, which PFGS cites as one of the most stable sources of revenue to fund local government budgets.

McCarty said it was BBP’s considered opinion that it’s better to use the same rate of inflation. A surprising admission was that Richmond has been allowed to sit with BBP financial planners, though there’s obviously a difference in how the two analysts are modeling the complex figures that underlie the park’s financial projections.

Responding to suggestions that BBPC should wait a couple of years, until future revenues and expenses can be projected more accurately, before deciding whether to proceed with the Pier 6 housing, Regina Myer, BBPC’s President, explained that it’s important to remember that although the price of Brooklyn real estate is currently sky high, there are no assurances it will remain that way. Perhaps more important, said Ms. Myer, is while park construction is now fully funded, it is vital to secure a revenue stream for future maintenance by contributing now to capital funding reserves.

Myer, in a statement sent to BHB this morning, said: “Pier 6 will guarantee the future of the park for generations to come. We have been meeting with the community on a regular basis specifically regarding Pier 6 and our financial projections showing the need for the revenue this project will generate, and we look forward to more open, spirited discussions.”

In a statement also sent to BHB this morning, Hale, PFGS board chair, stated “The BBPC [last night] acknowledged they had not provided a fulsome or fair financial model and were caught ignoring future revenue. We stand by the analysis we have done and believe there is no financial justification to build the Pier 6 towers.”

With Claude Scales

Photos: PowerPoint Screen showing BBP analysis of PFGS financial modeling; David McCarty, BBP’s Real Estate Project Manager, explaining BBP financial documents.


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  • Andrew Porter

    By the end of this century, alas, I suspect BBP will be awash at high tide, and all these controversies will be moot.

  • Doug Biviano

    Is it possible to believe that there is not enough tax money to support the park and a library with at least 6 condo and hi-rise developments under construction (not including Pier 6) and many more Watch Tower sales/conversions happening in our tiny neck of the woods (not including downtown hi-rises) approaching Manhattan level density with a PS8 school bursting at the seams? If the answer is yes, then problem lies in our tax base or if you will the tax abatements, tax breaks to developers and developments and public asset giveaways to developers. These harmful practices must be ended once and for all and the con job that condos in the park is, will vanish.

    Yet, I don’t believe for a minute that there isn’t enough tax money to provide the vital infrastructure that so many generations before delivered to the public even in the toughest of times.

  • Quinn Raymond

    Interesting read.

  • Prince Humperdink

    Wasn’t BBP’s finances set up so that the city specifically did not provide funding from taxes? Therefore, unless there is a major change, BBP must find ways to be self-supporting. BTW, sounds like an interesting meeting. Wish my friend Inigo Montoya had shown up!

  • Doug Biviano

    Major change yes. That is why picking the right law makers matters… uh oh too late.

  • Reggie

    Who remembers how long it took after the City Council race for Doug Biviano to remember he isn’t a candidate any more?

  • squib squid

    Claude – my hat’s off to you – this is a good summary of what must have surely been a fast-paced and tense meeting! You should consider moonlighting as a court reporter.

  • ClaudeScales

    The credit goes to Michael, who took notes and rendered them into a very readable piece.

  • Mike from Brooklyn

    I appreciate the praise; please note that Claude provided salient details on the most contentious part of the evening – and I am grateful for his continued guidance in navigating this thorny discussion.

  • marshasrimler

    Peter Aschkenasy )former Koch crony) is at the center of crony capitalism (Alice Fischer rubin too sister of Kenneth Fisher) that are conspiring to destroy our neighborhood. lMr. Aschkensay (husband of Pam Brier ) carries water for developers who contribute to her hospital
    Why is he on BPL and BBP Board. who appointed him and who does he really represent

  • marshasrimler

    he speaks the truth

  • Cindy S

    Do you know what is happening here?

    WHEN I was a kid I was first taken to
    LONDON. The city may have had its
    Very questionable side but it DID have
    It’s defined esthetic. This was in large
    Part to how people defined themselves
    And why they continued to value living


    Now look at London what esthetics
    Locus do you see? The ferris wheel?
    London has no defining center only
    A hodgepodge of competing I’ll conceived

    The identity disaster of London is
    Being replicated HERE.