Questions Persist and Tempers Flare at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 Hearing

Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (BBPDC), a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) held a hearing at St. Francis College this past Thursday to receive public comments regarding the proposed revisions to the General Park Plan (GPP) and the two intended residential towers at Pier 6.  The hearing was a requirement of the recent settlement between BBPDC and People for Greenspace.  Modifications to the GPP were outlined in the BBPC June 30th press release:

  • reduction of buildings by three stories, including mechanicals, to 315 feet/30 stories (Parcel A) and 115 feet/15 stories(Parcel B)
  • reduction in total number of units from 430 to 339
  • all affordable units would be situated in the smaller building (Parcel B), approximately 117 units with 30 market-rate rental units
  • addition of ground floor retail space
  • addition of 1,500 square foot community facility
  • addition of 75-seat universal pre-K space
  • closure of a “loop road” surrounding both parcels
  • updated and improved streetscapes that would “enhance the park experience and create a welcoming gateway to the park”
  • addition of public restrooms
  • and the most contentious revision, the ability for BBPC to build the Pier 6 towers regardless of financial need

In a packed house, approximately 90 speakers signed up to have their view-points heard at what turned into an over five-hour meeting ending at 11:30 pm. Individuals were to receive three minutes to speak. Those representing an organization were entitled to six minutes.  While not all intended speakers were able to stay for the duration, the hearing had some dramatic high and lows regardless.


Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development and Chair of the BBPDC, spoke in support of the modification.  Her comments were met by loud jeers from the audience, “Let’s not turn this into something that its not.  We are not asking to approve the buildings of buildings on Pier 6.  These development sites were approved in the 2005 GPP.  All we are looking to do here is to make to them better by adding these benefits [of the modified GPP].   What this is a discussion about is whether or not to include, let’s be honest, affordable housing, at this site.  That’s ALL this is.”

Alicia Glen Pier 6

Deputy Mayor and BBPDC Board Member, Alicia Glen supports modifications.

She dismissed the claims that development is not necessary to fund the park citing the park’s own detailed analysis (which was met by shouts from the audience of “Open the books!”) and the recently released study by a “highly respected independent economist,” Barbara Byrne Denham.  Incidentally, the study was released via Crain’s on the same day as the meeting, and reported the development is vital to sustaining Pier 6.  At the same time, Brownstoner reported the study characterizes the success of the retail spaces on Pier 1, 1Hotel and Empire Stores, as “overly optimistic.”

Ms. Glen also refuted crititc’s demands that an additional environmental impact study (EIS) should be conducted, “In November, last year we released a tech memo, that followed the very strict guidelines that have been used by the city for years…This project did not meet a single one of the criteria that would have triggered an environmental review…Additional environmental review would do nothing other than to waste time and resources.  And we will wind up in exactly the same place.”  Regina Myer, President of BBPDC, added “We believe this is a vast improvement on the current plan.  As has been demonstrated, both through our extensive analysis and independent analysis, the pier 6 is absolutely essential to complete the financial model of the park.”

Support was peppered throughout the evening’s testimony from such organizations as the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.  Executive Vice President, Laurel Brown expressed her “strong support” on behalf of the organization as both the Park and the Partnership’s mission is to “connect communities to amenities and services.” Ironworker, Carole Raftrey representing Build Up NYC, offered “as a long-time Brooklyn resident, I am excited about the development on Pier 6.  The jobs that will be created are middle class jobs that allow workers to provide for their families.”    These comments were, at times, met by boo’s from the audience.  A statement was read on behalf of the President of St. Francis College supporting the project.  Rick Russo, Senior Vice President of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce supported the project as it would bring “ground-floor retail, 30 percent affordable housing and 500 construction jobs.”

Both Ms. Glen and Meyer’s comments set the tone for the subsequent reports accusing opponents of NIMBYism that have emerged in the days following the meeting.  But, the majority of speakers-including all of the elected officials in attendance along with experts in real estate, finance, urban planning and climate change-rejected the modified GPP and were opposed the buildings at Pier 6 in their entirety.  Speaker after speaker called for an additional environmental impact study.


Senator Squadron spoke passionately about his long-time opposition to the towers, systematically refuting the Park’s most popular arguments for proceeding with the project.  Squadron insisted that the technical memo fails to consider “modified flood zones, significant — and unanticipated — proposed development at the nearby Long Island College Hospital (LICH) site, a local school overcrowding crisis, increased need for open space, a more crowded transportation network, changing neighborhood character and additional construction impacts.”  A full transcript Senator Squadron’s testimony can be found on his State Senate website.  He concluded “The park is not facing a crisis in its operating budget. The rights on the Pier 6 sites will not expire. The urgency seems more a matter of politics than one of policy.  Too many questions are unanswered, alternatives unexplored, and claims unproven to approve this proposal.”

Daniel Squadron, Pier 6 Hearing

Senator, Daniel Squadron addresses BBPDC and crowd at Pier 6 hearing.

Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, supported Senator Squadron’s testimony and added, “We are victims of our own success, both the park and the neighborhoods in this area…I would suggest a moratorium in building in Downtown Brooklyn.  We have a moment to say ‘what are we doing here?’  It is not any one developer’s fault that we have too many children in our schools…But it is a big problem that we are all part of.”  Simon also added that she also supports a supplemental EIS.


P.S. 8 PTA Treasurer, Todd Castilow educated the BBPDC about the wait-list of 50 Kindergarten children at PS8, overcrowding in District 13 schools and pointed out a loophole in the Technical Memorandum’s methodology.  According to the Park’s own study, “PS8 is the only school serving Pier 6 in Brooklyn Heights…P.S. 8 is now at 140% capacity and the other 8 schools in the subdistrict are at 98% capacity.  That’s right now.  When Pier 6 is done, ALL the schools in the sub-district will be at 140% capacity.  ALL 8 of them…the twisted logic, used by the city to determine if a development project can proceed relies on whether each individual project increases our already overcrowded schools by more than 5% on its own.  This is a gaping loop hole which all of the developers are sneaking through.”  His remarks drew applause but as Mr. Castillow neared the end of his prepared statement (shortly after the 3 minute mark), the moderator insisted he stop.  This drew angry shouts from the crowd “Let him speak!”

Pier 6 Moderator

Edward Kramer of ESD served as the Moderator.


The confusion surrounding time allotment persisted and repeated itself with the Fred Kent, President of Project for Public Spaces, a global organization at the “hub of the global Placemaking movement, connecting people to ideas, expertise, and partners who share a passion for creating vital places.”   He was escorted out of the auditorium saying “you’ll have to carry me out!” but later allotted six minutes to make his remarks.  He opened with, “This park is the poster child of public money creating private development.”  He walked the audience through the park’s design pier by pier and illustrated that pier 6 in particular is not conducive to enjoying the water.  “If you think there’s anything positive about [Pier 6 design] as a gateway to the waterfront or a gateway down Atlantic Avenue, [there] is absolutely not…there was never any community process done for that, and that is a tragedy and atrocious and I believe that Pier 6 should be taken out.”

Joy Romanski, a climate change scientist at Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research, noted quickly rising sea levels and called the development of the towers an “ill conceived plan to site housing at the waterfront” within in a known flood plane.  A representative of the local Sierra Club chapter called the proposed towers an “affront to the concept of what a park should be” explaining we “must examine the public’s access to the waterfront” and that the shadows cast by the buildings would block sunlight to important marine ecosystems and diminish the enjoyment of the park itself.  Nate Rubin, Treasurer of the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation explained that the “proposed modification doesn’t give any value to” a thoughtfully designed gateway between Atlantic Avenue and the park.  Linda DeRosa, President of the Willowtown Association agreed, saying the traffic on Joralemon Street has become untenable and that an opportunity to build a proper entrance will be “squandered” if the Pier 6 buildings go up as planned.


Council Member Steve Levin outlined the challenges his constituents face due to over-development and called for a new environmental impact study.  He also suggested could be more forthcoming regarding its finances, “Major questions have been raised about the park’s financial model and the necessity of this project and the community has not been given enough time to process new information…The park seems determined to move forward with the plans for Pier 6 no matter how much the facts on the ground have changed….Once begun this project cannot be taken back….the board should reject the proposal so it can be re-examined…before the community is deprived of parkland forever.”

As part of his prepared statement, Patrick Killackey, President of the Brooklyn Heights Association questioned, “Although the GPP continues to contain language affirming the commitment ‘to build only what is necessary to support annual maintenance and operations,’ the modification exempts the housing on Pier 6 from that requirement ‘without regard to project finances…,’ why would you now consider eliminating that central premise? Why would you authorize the construction of 315 and 155-foot towers regardless of whether they provide one needed cent of revenue for this park?”


This hearing was among the first steps in the approval process.  An ESD spokesman shared, “Tonight’s hearing is about the proposed modification to the GPP. ESD and BBPDC will carefully consider the comments submitted at tonight’s hearing and any comment submitted in writing, before making a decision on the proposed modification.”

The public may submit written comments for the thirty days following the meeting.  Comments will be accepted no later than Monday, Aug. 31 at 5 p.m. They may be submitted via email to Ms. Rose-Marie Mahase, or faxed to 212-803-3778.  Or, comments can be mailed to Ms. Mahase’s attention at Empire State Development, 633 Third Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017.

DISCLOSURE: This contributor has been active in the parent group that created the ‘WeArePS8Too’ petition and participates in PS8 parent advocacy.

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  • StudioBrooklyn

    A little morning math…

    About 25% of the units will be families with children (

    For each of those units there will be an average of between 1.5 and 2 children (

    339+117 units = 456 units total, approximately 114 (25%) of which will have families with children. There will be between about 171 and 228 children (1.5-2 children per family) in these units.

    A 75-seat pre-K program won’t even be able to accept HALF of those children. Good job, planners. To everyone else: now is the time to go into the nannying/daycare business.

  • judifrancis

    They will ruin the entrance to our park for a handful of so called affordable apartments? That is, destroy the park forever, just as they have the views of the Great Bridge with the PierHouses buildings, just to demagogue on affordability? The park is wildly (and to we who have advocated it all these years) popular and needs more parklands not fewer. When did parks become unimportant? When did we lose sight of the greatness a park can be? We can regain 3 precious acres if we abandon any more housing, of any flavor, at Pier 6. Once in an eternity opportunity! Why destroy that which is so wonderful and needed? There is now windfall profits from the current developments to repair the piers or maintain the park – forever – so what are we really talking about? This is a sham, plain and simple. All communities have now spoken, along with all the local elected officials: no more housing inside the park is needed. Let’s get back to creating a great park entrance!

  • Willow Street Watch

    Judy, ALL of what you said was debated like twelve(!) years ago at various public meetings INCLUDING at leat two annual BHA meetings…the crowds surging around and THROUGH the Heights, the lack of security AND the basic fact tha5 from EVER indication (remember, this is over 10 years ago) the park gave every indication of simply being a scam to build luxo real estate.

    And guess what happened when very serious, thoughtful, RESPONSIBLE Heights residents raised very reasonable questions: Well first they were ignored. Then they were dismissed. THEN when some persisted the holy cry of racism went up to silence debate..

    Parks when properly done, are a great and indeed necessary element in any sane urban environment. But they can’t disrupt the existing neighborhood or diminish the safety/security of the surrounding, area. Both of which this park does EVEN WITHOUT the addition of real estate development.

  • StudioBrooklyn

    Also, what does “affordable” housing mean? How is it designated?

    Convenient that they put all the “affordable” units in a separate building, that way they don’t have to build a separate entrance for the slovenly proletariate to slink in and out of the building unseen by those who are about to eat.

    And when our neighborhood stands up and says “no” to this building project we can be painted as conservative anti-affordable-housing elitists.

  • CHatter

    Affordable housing units are keyed to area median income (specifically for this project, families that are between 80-165% of city-wide AMI). So for a family of four, that could be as high as $143,395.

    Here’s a thought: what if we all got behind building just the 15-story building, with 100% affordable housing units? Our neighborhood would benefit from greater economic diversity, the infrastructure impact is vastly reduced, the NIMBY argument is completely diffused, and it all comes down to whether a developer is willing to take the project.

  • StudioBrooklyn

    It’s a lovely idea but I’m under the impression that the ship sailed ten years ago.

  • judifrancis

    It is very simple: We need our park back. Would you put high-rises inside Central Park? or Tompkins Square park? Or Cobble Hill park? They eminent-domained the houses that existed inside Prospect Park over 100 years ago because they knew then, which we seem to forget today, that parks are places for all to congregate, equally, for quiet respite and recreation. Housing of any flavor is inappropriate inside a park. Have we so little belief that we can build great things that belong to all, equally, without regard to income or race or any other urban problem de jours? Have we lost our courage to advocate for a simple thing like a park?

  • Jorale-man

    Well said. Those of us who pay attention know the park is a giant real estate scam. I question whether most Heights residents are that up on the issues around this, however. I wonder if many see a huge new building blocking the promenade and shrug? I hope not, but it does make me wonder.

  • Bornhere

    I’ve been here from my own Day One (and I’m talking since the 1950s), and I always thought there was economic diversity in the Heights. The ugly over-building isn’t doing a whole lot for those of us who have grown up and raised our children here — the Promenade was fine, the views were great, and if I needed “park,” there was always Prospect and Central and other urban oases. The need to go kayaking or gorge on every kind of “artisanal” and “curated” food never occurred to me. I am really hard pressed to think of one benefit realized from BBP and the residential behemoths that doesn’t bring with it stunning deficits. How about we get behind NO more housing….

  • StoptheChop

    Re the “you can only have nice things if you let market-rate developers have their way first” mantra that seems to be what passes for city planning nowadays… note that a pre-school wanted to lease commercial space at One Brooklyn Bridge, but the Corporation rejected it as not in keeping with the GPP! How convenient that it’s now one of the Pier 6 highrises’ selling points.

    And the plan to close the mini loop road is sheer idiocy. Sure, let’s have every vehicle that enters off of Atlantic — taxi, car, delivery truck, bus, etc — have to use the frontage road along Piers 5 and 6. Because the market rate highrise deserves a lovely “front lawn”…..

  • StoptheChop

    Hmm. Maybe we should suggest highrises for City Hall Park and Carl Schurz park, then? ;)

  • CHatter

    I like your idea better than mine. What they both have in common is that neither will happen.

  • Bornhere

    It’s regrettable, but you’re right. I guess the mantra is supposed to be, “Let’s not ask for the moon when we have Smorgasburg.”

  • Eddyde

    “We need our park back” uh-um We never had one. As Jorale-man pointed out its a scam.

  • Banet

    Um, those ~200 children will be between the ages of 0 and 18. So there will only be 200/18 that are age-appropriate for pre-k, or about 12 kids.

    (Of course these families will skew to younger children so it will be far more than the 12 I mention, but you get my point — your logic is flawed.)

  • Willow Street Watch

    Exactly, everyone needs to STOP until there is a full understanding of what the TRUE long term effects are.

    You don’t go forward with an untested medical procedure or new threapy, unless there is the best assessment possible of benefits verses risks/danger.

    Founding a large new institution in the life of any community is modifying the collective living space. Who drives down a dark or poorly lit unfamiliar street and maintains or increases speed?
    We need to put our brights on and slow way down to see what’s ahead…

    What are we talking here? Brain/rocket science or common sense?

  • Willow Street Watch

    Why is the park now a holy given? Its very simple; the park is our misfortune…from day one..

    Let me ask you Judy, if you went to a doctor and he gave you a medicine and it made you ill and the doctor tells you to continue and you get progressive sicker do you continue with medication or do you fire the doctor and find a new health provider?

    Let me ask you…has the Heights gotten better since the inception of the park? Has it? OK, That’s why people wish the piers come back and all of you just, please, go away and leave us alone. There was no plebiscite on should the park be constructed. Guess what like 80% plus would have voted if the voice of the average Heights resident was sought? No one I had ever met when the park was proposed was in favor. Certainly not under an unelected board like what was, carefully avoiding a vote, put in place.

    Again, has the Heights gotten better since the inception of this wonderful institution…?

  • Willow Street Watch

    Stop and go back to the 7/29 open thread and what I posted about what really went on at the St Francis public hearing. I stayed till the very end.
    A LOT of it was appalling in the outright lying and self interest(s)
    of the proponents, the manipulated order of speakers, but the worst thing was the general incompetence of the opponents in that they were trying to use logical arguments and soft music on rapacious destructive animals. Smart thinking. Using aspirin on Cancer….the best thing was the sheer number and percentage of the community who turned out to, in no uncertain terms, strongly oppose the entire idea! Go back to the 7/29 open thread…

  • StoptheChop

    we should have realized we were snookered when Bloomberg gave jurisdiction to the EDC. not Parks.

  • StudioBrooklyn

    You’re right. But if we consider the couples moving in who will have babies after the fact it should compensate for some of that gap. In any case I still don’t think the 75-seat pre-K space will be sufficient to offset the additional strain placed on the neighborhood schools. Not even close.

  • bklyn20

    The park doesn’t need more money; their previous filings say so. The park, if we can call it a “park,” will become ever more park-less with two new buildings.

    Really, it is becoming a strip park, with its very own park-a-berm. Why not just put in a people mover, as at the airport? That way the people on the outdoor assembly line can watch the other people involved in their programmed activities, yet never set foot on actual grass. Instead they can buy a container of purple truffle pappardelle pasta with an artisanal microbrew, and then they have had their park experience!

    The Pier 6 uplands are the last chance for an open, unencumbered space that does not dictate an activity for the park-goer. Maybe someone just needs to see the water. Perhaps someone just wants a few cubic feet of open space around them after a long day at work and an hour on crowded subway. We need more park in this park.

  • William Gilbert

    Doesn’t the current mayor control the appointees to Brooklyn Bridge Park? Can’t he alone stop it? Oh, but I forgot about those Real Estate developer campaign contributions!

  • StoptheChop

    The current Mayor has conveniently forgotten all kinds of pledges he made while he was candidate, in opposition to rammed-through development plans. Same applies to the BPL highrise.