Housing Opponents Swarm Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. Board Meeting, Channeling Spike Lee

Opponents of the new residential buildings being constructed at the north and south ends of Brooklyn Bridge Park were out in full force at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation’s (BBP) board meeting Thursday (2/26). The gathering of upwards of 70 remained mostly polite but — as has been the case in other recent BBP meetings — it did become emotional and forceful at times, with local residents and advocacy group members publicly shaming the BBP board members for a perceived lack of transparency and responsiveness to local concerns. Several attendees referenced Spike Lee’s seminal Brooklyn movie Do the Right Thing, and your humble BHB correspondent was on hand to catch the action.

The meeting, which took place at Borough Hall at 11 a.m., began simply enough, with the BBP board voting to approve several not-so-contentious measures on maritime maintenance.

But then City Councilmember and BBP board member Stephen Levin brought up the (non-binding) resolution recently passed by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council (CAC), which calls for the Board to halt to all construction of Pierhouse at the park’s north end and the further work on the planned Pier 6 residential towers at the south end until concerns are addressed about the park’s potential overfunding and the new structures’ impact on views, school overcrowding, flood zones, and other local infrastructure. Specifically, the CAC is calling for a new environmental impact study, a housing study, and — as it has since November of last year — full park financials to be published.


The full BBP board.

“I think as an elected representative and city council member I want to ensure we are being responsive to the public, and our partners in the public as part of the CAC, I think it’s appropriate we consider their resolution at this time,” Levin said, introducing a motion for the board to approve it.

However, deputy mayor and BBP board chair Alicia Glen moved quickly to shut him down, saying, “as you you know, we are not going to be entertaining a motion on this topic. The chair does determine the agenda for the meeting, and after consultation with management, we decided that these items, although they are included in the board packet… they would not be subject of a vote at this time.”

The meeting progressed onto the public comment portion, in which attendees were given two minutes maximum (and strictly warned in mid-speech with a paper sign and a dinging bell) to raise matters before the BBP board. Over 20 people took advantage of the opportunity, nearly all of them offering vocal opposition to aspects of the under-construction Pierhouse and planned Pier 6 residential developments, and the BBP’s handling of their complaints.


CAC co-chair Andrew Lastowecky at the podium.

CAC co-chair Andrew Lastowecky got the ball rolling, saying, “the overcrowding of schools is not a joke. People in this community have already had their children shipped to other neighborhoods for school.”

Public School 8 PTA co-presidents Kim Glickman and Ansley Samson came up to the podium later with data to support the point of school overcrowding, noting that this year’s pre-registration numbers saw 30 more kids than last year, meaning there would need to be six or more kindergarden classes. “We acknowledge that not all this is about Brooklyn Bridge Park, [but] a large chunk is,” Samson said, noting that with 1,025 residential units coming online between Pierhouse, Pier 6, One John in Dumboand the existing One Brooklyn Bridge Park translates to 300 more public school kids in a school with a capacity for 500. “We need a plan on the table to deal with this very significant overcrowding problem before we add to it by approving additional residential housing in this school zone.”

Calling for further environmental studies, Save Pier 6 founder Ren Richmond got applause for his closing line blasting one of the two planned towers: “There’s just no need to put a 31-story in the park entrance in a flood zone when there are no school seats and when the park truly doesn’t need the money.” The BBP says that Pier 6 housing is needed to fully fund the park’s continuing operational budget, while opponents say the BBP isn’t taking into account tax breaks. Noting that plans for Pier 6’s 15-story and 31-story towers include affordable housing, some local publications have suggested that local opposition is based primarily on classist NIMBYism.

Addressing the Pier 6 towers, 58-year resident and architect Joe Merz said “psychologically, they represent as well, a blockade in the sense that people live there. They own a part of the park. There’s no question about that…the psychological aspect of these buildings has never been considered.”


A member of advocacy group Build Up NYC speaks.

Also among other vocal critics were several members of local resident advocacy group Save the View Now, and members of worker advocacy outfit Build Up NYC. Both groups have repeatedly called for a halt to construction at the quickly rising Pierhouse on the park’s north end, and while the NYC Buildings Department has issued several stop work orders in recent months — the latest in January — they’ve all been lifted after subsequent changes and promises by the developers and the BBP. One Build Up NYC member also pointed out the BBPC still hasn’t released all the names of the 14 developers who bid on the Pier 6 contract.

Martin Hale, chairman of the nonprofit advocacy group People for Green Space and Pier 6 opponent, said that by not bringing up the CAC’s resolution, BBP board members “threaten to violate the public’s trust. This will be with your reputations forever. We simply ask that you, in the words of the great Spike Lee, ‘Do the Right Thing.’”


DUMBO Neighborhood Association rep and CAC member Doreen Gallo addresses the BBP.

But perhaps the most intense criticism came from outside Brooklyn Heights itself. Doreen Gallo, CAC member from the DUMBO Neighborhood Association, told the board: “You’ve pulled off one of the greatest scams of all time. You’ve sold our beloved bridge. You’ve destroyed the protected view-planes from the promenade and perhaps worse, you’ve destroyed the views of the great bridge from within the park itself…The people of Brooklyn deserve better.” She also called upon the board to “do the right thing” and stop Pier 6 development.

The meeting ended around 12:20 p.m. without any sign that the critics were changing board members’ minds on the previously approved residential development plans. That said, throughout the public comment period, the BBP board members remained silent and took notes, as per their policy of not responding directly in an effort to keep to the allotted time that Borough Hall was available.


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  • Andrew Porter

    “Waist deep in the Big Muddy, the big fool said to press on…”

  • ujh

    Apart from the question whether the planned high-rises at Pier 6 are needed to fund the BBP’s M&O, what does it take for members of Save the View Now and People for Green Space and others to acknowledge that building additional schools is the responsibility of the Department of Education, City Council, and of the Mayor? How busy are Council members Steve Levin and Brad Lander as our immediate representatives, and others at the next level of government, pushing the powers that be to build desperately needed classrooms – with or without the next wave of residents in CB2 and CB6?

  • Solovely

    Please read the original FEIS and the technical memo.

  • NeighboorHood

    Thanks BHB for the excellent coverage of the meeting!
    Having been there I’d like to add a few comments & blow off some steam if I may. Not mentioned here is the 1st item approved at this meeting, $700,000 to repair the 5 million dollar footbridge that failed within a year! When the board was asked by Mr. Ott if there’s been any effort by the board to determine WHY a 5 million dollar footbridge failed, and attempt to recoup the 700K in our tax dollars from the negligent party, it was comical to see Alicia Glenn, Regina Meyer and a legal council, toss that hot potato back and forth, stuttering to answer the question, as if it never occurred to them! Cue Dame Joanne Witty with her usual contribution to the nuts and bolts financial concerns of the tax paying public: “I’d like to just add that I’m so very glad we have money in the reserve fund to pay for the repairs”!
    OMG. No, this park’s maintenance budget isn’t gold plated and
    irresponsibly handled. $700K is treated like petty cash. Hey, we can always
    build another condo where the lovely dirt pile, I mean “bearm” is, to
    pay for it.
    “Throughout the public comment period, the BBP board members remained silent and took notes, as per their policy of not responding directly in an effort to keep to the allotted time that Borough Hall was available.” – I respectfully disagree with this explanation. Are we really expected to believe the reason the board refuses to answer the public’s questions is because they don’t have the room booked long enough?!
    They purposefully structure the meetings so that there is NO question and answer, so all they do is tell us what they have unilaterally decided to do (often without explanation or justification) and then let the tax paying public ask a few questions, which they simply ignore. This is not the 1st meeting structured so. If they wanted to answer our questions, couldn’t they oh..I don’t know, book the damn room for an extra 1/2 hour? Hey…I volunteer to host the next one, no charge. I’ll even make cookies.
    At a previous meeting, Mr. Levin, a board member and elected official, asked about the Pier House height violation issue, which had just emerged as a serious and urgent concern, on behalf of his constituents, and Deputy Mayor Alicia Glenn told him “Sorry, we are out of time. Meeting adjourned”!
    At this meeting, when Mr. Levin asked, on the record, if the 3 CAC resolutions could be voted on, she said basically NO, because I say so! Is this the way the board should be responding to elected officials who dare raise taxpayers concerns?
    At this point it’s clear the BBP Board has been exposed and they are simply trying to push through the construction projects before they are stopped. Thanks for your indulgence if you read this far!

  • nathan

    Great points. It really is a shame that the BBPDC refuses to answer any questions to those in the community.
    In fact, I’m almost forced to believe they simply have no shame.
    At this point, they have to realize their management of the park is being viewed by the community as either incompetent, or corrupt.
    How could they seriously allow the buildings in the park to ruin the Bridge views?
    I’m pretty sure they realize their math doesn’t add up, which is why they won’t “who their work.”
    Are they simply embarrassed by all their mistakes? Is that why they treat the community with such disdain? Because they were exposed?
    The question is, can anyone force them to respond to the community?

  • Remsen Street Dweller

    Look — you are all being treated like those of us that tried to save Long Island College Hospital were treated, that is, strung along, not listened to and played for fools.

    The SaveLICH community is waiting for the much-warranted investigation of Cuomo, SUNY, the NYS Dept. of “Health”, the State Assembly and the Brooklyn Judicial system for their part in the heinous corruption that shut LICH’s doors.

    You are not being counted or respected. The corruption is hideous and rampant.

  • Andrew Porter

    We’re being kept in the dark and fed manure, to use an old chiché…

  • johnny cakes

    The leadership (?) of the BBPDC must be replaced. Period.

  • Greg Vaughn

    When do you think the people buying the property in the park will realize that it will probably be partially underwater in 20 years or so.

  • judifrancis

    For those just wading into the BBP fiasco, this is not new. The BBP has consistently, strongly and urgently denied the community its voice in our park. We predicted the view plane violations on Pier 1 back in 2005 when we hired the Simulation Center to render in 3D the impacts of the Pierhouses – but were ignored, even by the then-leaders of the Heights Association (many of them still on the Conservancy and BBP boards today). We demonstrated the folly of the maintenance budget – platinum plated then and now – used to justify housing inside the park. So the Board’s current response to just spend more money on the bridge is, well, not unexpected. It is how they have managed the budget all along – irresponsibly. We found many, many ways to pay for the park in the CAH/Alternatives to Housing report but that was politicized and all good alternatives ignored. One Board member actually asked me why the communities had never planned the entrance on Pier 6? Can you believe that? We held several large scale planning sessions in 2008 and presented our findings and DRAWINGS to the BBP in May of that year! This was undertaken by citizens, paid for by community associations and again ignored by the BBP. Is there no institutional memory whatsoever? So now we have four – and maybe more – board members who have a personal financial stake in the park, still deciding what goes where, how and when. It is a bloody scandal and it has reached the tipping point. There are no more park housing supporters except a few paid trolls or those with their heads in the sand. Keep up the pressure, all of you new voices. They have sold our Bridge and it is shaping up to be the scam of the century but we can still, even at this 11th hour, stop this madness.

  • StoptheChop

    and don’t forget the Empire Stores shopping mall! Poor DUMBO—-

  • judifrancis

    Indeed, forgive me. Shopping mall and offices in Empire Stores – again, activities totally inappropriate for a park. Take a look at the Hudson River Trust Act – that legislation protected their park from housing, offices, shopping mall and gambling. Are we to expect a casino as the next iteration for our park?

  • Sandy Graham

    The Sky’s The Limit for these folks. Construction is not adhering to height regulations and the Pierhouse is getting taller and wider by the minute.
    3 accidents have happened and 1 lawsuit is pending by the construction crew. When a building goes up this fast, accidents are bound to happen.
    Does this building bounce up and down too?

  • Doug Biviano

    It’s time for Regina Myer apologize to the community and to resign.

    See my full comment here: http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/73671#comment-552127

  • arkady

    You all are singing to the amen choir. I’d like to voice a different song: that the park is a wonderful asset being enjoyed by huge numbers of people & that all your arguments sound like elitist rationalizations. I agree that new schools are important – as they are for the Atlantic Yards area – but that isn’t w/in the purview of Regina Myer et al. And so on.

  • Slyone

    I’ve heard this — that schools aren’t the responsibility of the BBPDC (or the developers) — several times, and I’m not sure it’s true. According to online original bylaws and incorporation docs (and some other reports), the BBPDC looks to be a wholly owned subsidiary (or something close to that in corporate speak) of the Empire Development Corporation.

    The BBPDC is “a component unit of the City of New York” and exists “in order to maintain and to enforce the [BBP’s] General Project Plan” among other things.

    Per its website, “The
    mission of Empire State Development is to promote a vigorous
    and growing state economy . . . and support diverse, prosperous local
    economies across New York State . . . .” among other things.

    To my mind, organizations that are components of the City of NY and charged with the mission of supporting “diverse prosperous local economies” should absolutely be mindful of the impacts of their actions on public schools in ways that a fully private developer might not.

    I also think a part of the approval and review process for developments that would have such a profound impact on their zoned public schools should include proposals to minimize and mitigate those impacts. Here, the public officials who would approve the development are those on the BBPDC, and I think asking them to find ways to minimize and mitigate their impacts on their zoned public school is absolutely appropriate.

  • peter f

    And consequently Hudson River Park is so under-funded that they are desperately promoting either some residential housing on a pier, or selling ‘air rights’ to developers along the West Side Drive! Time will tell if BBPC actually, or fully, ‘needs’ its Pier 6 residential housing to finance its pier repairs and operating expenses, but better our Park faces an over-funding rather than an under-funding problem.

  • judifrancis

    Nope, the community and their elected officials were listened to – heard – on the Hudson River Park housing and they will NOT build housing on the piers nor inside this park – unlike what’s going on here in Brooklyn. HRP will obtain funding from one building on the other side of the West Street/West Side highway. Just like Bryant Park with its funding stream from buildings across the streets – very large, busy streets – that surround it (a BID). Unlike BBP with housing cantilevered over park walkways and, in many cases (take a look at the RFP’s and at Pierhouses), right up against parklands. A very big difference. Why would you advocate for funds if they are not needed? Why aren’t we considering more parklands needed for the next 50 years instead of the obsession of taking parklands away from our growing population, particularly now that we know the funds are not needed? And that is before we look at the gold-plated budget many feel has been manufactured to justify housing. I’d rather protect parklands than squander them on the supposition that the funds are needed. If the funds really are needed then show us the financial model. Transparency. What is the BBP so afraid of I wonder….

  • dumbfounded

    You seem to be intimately familiar with BBP,. so please identify the “housing cantilevered over park walkways” for the uninformed people here. I wonder how often you walk the entire length of the park.

  • dumbfounded

    Thank you for your voice of reason, which seems in short supply on this blog.

  • dumbfounded

    The BBPC is a subsidiary of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, not of the Empire State Development Corporation. Furthermore, its purpose is to build and operate the Brooklyn Bridge Park and come up with the money to fund park maintenance and operation – nothing more and nothing less.

  • judifrancis

    Nearly every morning. Here are some pictures if you are not able to walk it yourself. It is so interesting to me that so many with such a strong POV have never even been in the park and have no idea the negative impact of these condos. Sad, all around.

  • Slyone

    Just checked on this: there are two entities, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, which continues to exist as a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD), continues “as necessary to discharge its statutory obligations with respect to the General Project Plan.” The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (otherwise known simply as Brooklyn Bridge Park) exists, too — I’m not seeing where it’s a subsidiary of anything, though I may be missing something — and looks to have been formed in 2010 and is a “city-controlled entity.” The BBPDC looks to have 10 board members, 6 of which are also on the board of the BBPC.

    It looks like both organizations are often involved in decision making (the recent Technical Memo, for example, gave roles to all three organizations — ESD, too — in moving the Pier 6 project forward). My point is simply that they are all organizations of our city and state governments, and I expect them, as I said before, to be mindful of the impacts of their actions on public schools in ways that a fully private developer might not.