Last night’s meeting of the Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Community Advisory Council ended with the passage, by an overwhelming majority, of a resolution proposed by Council member Judi Francis, requesting (1) full disclosure of the Park’s financials; (2) a new Environmental Impact Statement taking into account new data regarding the impact of housing proposed and under construction on Park land on local infrastructure, including schools, traffic, transit, health care, and flood preparedness; (3) a study to ensure that no more housing is built on Park land than is needed to fund Park operation and maintenance; and (4) a halt to all construction at Pierhouse it is determined that the structure (with remedial action if necessary) does not violate any views protected under the terms of the Park’s original Final Environmental Impact Statement. The CAC’s resolution has no immediate effect; it will go to the Park Corporation’s board of directors for consideration at a meeting scheduled for February 26.
The meeting began with routine business, which included the news that two BHB contributors and friends, Matthew Parker and T.K. Small, will be leaving the CAC. Parker is moving to Pennsylvania, and will be missed by us here at BHB, as well as by users of the Hillside Dog Park. Small, who has represented the disability community, has recommended as his replacement Joan Peters, another advocate for the disabled. After some discussion of agenda items, members of the audience began demanding that the meeting proceed to discussion of the contested matters on the agenda, and co-chairs Andrew Lastowecky and Lucy Koteen agreed to do so, deferring other matters to the end of the meeting.
The first presentation was by representatives of the P.S. 8 PTA, who used charts and graphs to demonstrate how that school’s situation had changed from 66% of capacity at the time the Park’s FEIS was issued to 148% of capacity today, and called for a new study to take into account the impact of Park housing on local schools. They also noted that there is considerable other new residential development taking place in the area that will further stress school capacity.
Steven Guterman of Save The View Now then took the floor, with a visual presentation that included language quoted from the Request For Proposals to develop what became the Pierhouse site and from the Park’s FEIS that, he said, committed the Park and the developer of the site to preserving views of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Promenade. He also showed diagrams illustrating how changes in the plans for the site had affected views of the Bridge from the Promenade. He showed that initial plans for the site had limited the height of the northern part of the structure to 34 feet for a distance of 80 feet from its southern end, to afford views from Squibb Park. However, the Pierhouse as constructed has ignored this limitation, and by doing so has not only blocked the view from Squibb Park but has also affected views of the Bridge from the Promenade. His presentation drew a standing ovation form many of those present (Photo above).
Park Corporation President Regina Myer described the progress the Park has made, noting that it is now nearly 90% complete, and that new sections on Pier 6, the Pier 5 uplands, and John Street are slated to open soon. She stressed the Park’s need for revenue to meet its exceptionally high operating and maintenance expenses, stemming largely from the fact that much of the Park is on piers supported by pilings that were set in place in the 1950s and ’60s, and which haven’t been maintained since then. She also said that the development of the Pierhouse design at each stage was presented to, and approved by, the CAC.
Following Ms. Myer, David Lowin, the Park Corporation’s Vice President for Real Estate, gave a presentation, with visuals, showing the development of the Pierhouse design and noting that the placement of bulkheads on the roof had been done in a way to minimize the impact on the view of the Bridge from the Promenade.
After the presentations and discussion involving members of the audience and CAC members, Ms. Francis presented her resolution, which then passed. CAC member Bill Orme expressed the opinion that the CAC, himself included, had been insufficiently diligent in considering the effects of changes in the Pierhouse design on views sought to be protected in the 2005/6 agreement that limited height to 100 feet. He said he believed throughout, including when it was disclosed, following Superstorm Sandy, that the building’s mechanicals would have to be relocated, that the 100 foot limit would be respected. Another CAC member, Doreen Gallo, disagreed with Mr. Orme. She said she did not think there was a failure of diligence on the part of the CAC, but that the CAC had not been given adequate information.
Also see Tale of the Tweets below.