BHB Exclusive: Q & A Nancy Webster, Executive Director BBP Conservancy

Last week Brooklyn Heights Blog spoke with Nancy Webster, executive director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy since 2010, on the role of the conservancy in supporting BBP, her history with the park, and her views regarding the determined opposition to further housing development on BBP’s Pier 6. Ms. Webster, a resident of Carroll Gardens, first joined the conservancy as a volunteer in 1999.

The conservancy’s history stretches back to 1985 with the establishment of the Friends of Fulton Ferry Landing, a grass-roots organization that originally proposed that the vacant waterfront near the Brooklyn Bridge be turned into a park.

From those beginnings the conservancy has grown into a $2-million-dollar organization that—in addition to advocacy efforts on behalf of it’s partner organization, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation—schedules hundreds of events annually in the 85-acre park.

Michael Randazzo, Brooklyn Heights Blog: How long have you personally been involved with the Brooklyn Bridge Park conservancy?

Nancy Webster, Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy: I’ve been on staff here at the conservancy since the fall of 2006. I started out doing communications and am now the executive director.

BHB: Were you part of the original team that founded the conservancy?

NW: No, I am not part of that original team. If you take a look at the history of the conservancy [and] the citizen’s movement to build Brooklyn Bridge Park, the conservancy really begins back in the mid-Eighties and emerges as a leader of the citizens’ organization to actually convert the piers [on the Brooklyn waterfront] into Brooklyn Bridge Park. So the conservancy and the movement to build the park actually have quite a long history with quite a few twists and turns. The good news is it’s a very successful story where we now have this amazing park with more great things to come.

BHB: What is your personal involvement with the history of this endeavor?.

I was attracted to work at the conservancy because at that time I was a DUMBO resident, and I was excited about the possibility of a waterfront park and how that would be transformative, not only for my life, but [also] for the borough and the city.

I had previously been working in the advertising industry and did a career shift to come work here at the conservancy because I was so excited about the work that we were trying to do and the possibilities for Brooklyn Bridge Park.

BHB: So you were not involved with any discussions or any advocacy about BBP prior to taking a job with the conservancy in 2006?

NW: On a tangential level I had done some volunteer work for the conservancy prior to coming on staff and had been involved with the neighborhood association in DUMBO. This is in early 2000.

BHB: And the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy is separate from the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation?

NW: That’s correct. It’s an entirely separate entity. The conservancy is a 501 c3.

The conservancy history really began as a leader of the citizens’ advocacy movement to build the park. That was successful. We expanded our mission to produce and facilitate free public events and activities that are in the park, coordinating the volunteer programs and raising project dollars to support that mission. We facilitate over 450 free events and activities in the park, including a very robust education program, lots of cultural and recreational events.

We coordinate over 7,000 volunteer hours in the park that help to maintain its green spaces and serve as a conduit for public outreach and communications to help people know what’s happening in the park and what they can come and see and enjoy. [The conservancy] functions in a supportive role to ensure that what we see as just an absolutely extraordinary public space lives up to its full potential in serving the citizens of New York and beyond.

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  • marshasrimler

    Nancy Webster is paid and bought by the real estate interests. She is really a hidden paid lobbyist–nothing more,nothing less

  • Lady in the Heights

    That is false! Nancy is the exec director of a non profit organization and is wonderful, dedicated principled person who holds this job because she cares deeply about the neighborhood and having a wonderful resources for the city. I have known her for 15 years. Shame on you!

  • marshasrimler

    Nancy has multiple conflicts of she heads the CAC but is handmaiden to the BBPDC. Ask members of the CAC who believe she is
    bought and paid for.. Wake up and smell the roses..Non profit and carrying water for the big profit making developers.
    Either you are naive or whatever

  • HenryStreeter

    Medication… use it.

  • marshasrimler

    is that a legitimate answer to conflict of interest questions?
    ask members of the cac. It would be good if this was looked into by the press

  • Lady in the Heights

    If you are going to sling accusations, you better have the facts to back them up. Please explain what exactly Nancy has done that is corrupt?

  • marshasrimler

    ask members of the cac about ongoing conflict of interest issues they have.. why not put it on the agenda and in the public sunlight?

  • johnny cakes

    HenryStreeter. That is a spiteful thing to say to someone. Maybe you should follow your own advice and get a prescription.

    Non-profits are the preferred method of hiding money. Ask Lito Lopez, or even Eric Adams about the use of non-profit covers to hide money.

  • Lady in the Heights

    I am asking you because you put it in the “public sunlight”. Stand behind your accusations. What has Nancy Webster done that is corrupt and what specifically are her conflicts and what has she done that is questionable? Be specific, please.

  • marshasrimler

    As I said she has ongoing conflict of interest issues
    that need to be spelled out in the cac. She raises money for the organization she runs from the developers. They in essence pay her salary and then build and overbuild in the community. She supports their efforts . This needs daylight at the cac. Have a pleasant day. Bye

  • Lady in the Heights

    Sounds like general mudslinging to me. Doesn’t sound like you have much.

    Maybe you should focus on some positive things in this world instead of only looking for the negative? Maybe take a walk in our gorgeous park on this beautiful fall day.

  • marshasrimler

    We shall see

  • Doug Biviano

    Much of what Nancy Webster says is thoughtful and her point of view is obvious, so I can appreciate that, but to say that the rest of the park will be put in jeopardy without development at Pier 6 is pure hyperbole and fear mongering.

    What puts parks, libraries, hospitals and schools in jeopardy is the overbuilding with the one-two punch of public subsidies to developers in the form of tax abatements (421A and J51 that last up to 25 years), specially legislated tax breaks (Extell, Atlantic Yards, etc), and public asset and infrastructure giveaways below market value (Atlantic Yards, IRS building, etc).

    In essence, tax payers are being forced by politicians (with tools to combat the 1970’s decline of NYC but now fund their campaigns) to support developers and newcomers instead of the parks, libraries, hospitals, and schools we need to live happy, healthy and productive lives.

    Given Nancy Webster’s Role, one cannot expect her to speak to this broader issue that is harming our communities. All the talk of Affordable Housing is actually a smoke screen because people here and now are being driven out in droves despite the AH hullabuloo.

  • cindy s

    Well, its really two factors which is
    Causing/enabling the tulip bulb
    Craze in housing prices. First the
    Behavior or government but of far
    More significance the behavior of
    The banking sector. Only ONE
    Element WRITES the PAPER…

  • cindy s

    Without the behavior of the financing
    Sector you cannot (duh) have housing
    prices ever escalating in a tulip craze.

    As far as the park is concerned,
    Everyone really needs not to focus
    on personalities or smaller aspects
    And focus on what FUNDAMEN-
    TALLY is going wrong.

    This park is the classic PRIVATE
    Corporation being allowed to take
    over the function of a govermental
    Body responsible to the electorate.
    Starting with the Federal Reserve…
    Which is the model for this severe
    Distortion, private trusts, funds and
    “quasi-public” corporations with all
    their lack responsibilty to the public
    will, murky visabity have proliferated.
    And with the rise of each one of these
    artificially created power centers,
    there is alwaysthe rise of circles
    of supporters or individual lead-
    ers of satellite organizations who
    are here to assure the public that
    everything is being well monitored.
    But let anyone seriously ask for
    a real time review or audit by any
    Kind of an outside independent
    Agency all the lapdogs go into
    deflectiowhennd when that doesn’t
    work, they go into attack mode.

    This is what is going wrong here;
    Government has got to govern.
    It has do so efficient ly and effect-
    ively. The PEOPLE HAVE to insist
    on this. And, private bodies are
    NOT a substitute for honest,
    effective govrrnment. This is well,
    what you were always taught in
    School: government always
    Responsible to the direct will of
    The people.

    The people must be vigilant
    But the people in this republic
    are the absolute sovereigns.

    Now let’s see all the lapdogs and
    Extra government policy creating
    NGO Types attack the above…too
    bad its the truth….

  • gatornyc

    Your point has little to no applicability to BBP in view of its funding structure. The fact is that the Park has not yet provided sufficient information regarding its finances to determine whether additional development on Pier 6 is necessary for BBP to meet its financial obligations. It remains an open question that must be vetted, which can only occur once BBP provides additional budget information.

  • marshasrimler

    well said the BBP Board.. must come clean and open its books. government must govern not these private groups that the politicians hide behind

  • Solovely

    Seems worth pondering that Ms. Webster chose to take a position on the save pier 6 issue; is such a stance within the mission of the Conservancy’s mission statement? And/or should it be? Is worth some discussion? These organizations were conceived as separate entities with different missions. How do supporters of the park, support the park, but be against pier 6? now that Ms. Webster has taken this position? Is this “mission creep” on the park of the conservancy? Was her position on pier 6 even necessary within her role?

  • Doug Biviano

    My point is that you and everyone else are focusing on the PILOTS (whether covering the cost of BBP which we suspect they are without Pier 6 buildings) when this scheme is an under-performing distraction created by politicians to justify development where it doesn’t belong that is ironically subsidized by other tax payers (many who don’t want it). An unabated tax base is all we ever needed to fund this park, our libraries, our hospitals and our schools (way over crowded from overbuilding). If we had elected officials who respected the voters they would end these tax abatements, public giveaways and our park would be a park, not a development project.

  • Doug Biviano

    That is what I was getting out with my point of ending tax abatements and public giveaways. These public-private partnership schemes are harming transparency, accountability, our ability to govern, and robbing the tax payer in so many ways. When people hear Public Private Partnerships they need to scream to elected officials HELL NO! Note, our “Authorities” like Port and MTA fall into this category as well shielding politicians from accountability as well.

  • gatornyc

    True or not (and I’ll go with not; the funding of government is far more complicated than you suggest), the ship sailed long ago on the debate of whether the Park should be self-funding through PILOTS, land leases (you don’t mention those), etc.

    Attempting to bring the debate back to whether the Park should or should not be self-funding is the distraction.

  • gatornyc

    With all due respect (and I do respect your cause), such questions distract from the core point. Indeed, why should anyone — particularly the head of the Conservancy — not be able to voice their position regarding the issue? Your core issues are very strong, so why distract from them by raising these types of questions which candidly only provide fodder for your opponents.

  • johnny cakes

    gatornyc. You sound like a lawyer. Are you a lawyer? That could make you an ordained liar for your client.