Critics of Brooklyn Park Plans Warn: Don’t Cede Land to Private Developers

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The New York Sun

Ceding land to private developers at the site of the Brooklyn Bridge Park will set a precedent for whether residential high-rises become the norm in new parks across the city, critics of the current blueprints for the Brooklyn park argued in state court yesterday.

Park activists squared off against lawyers for the city and state over the current plan for transforming the desolate piers and waterfront space under the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge into parkland.

The Empire State Development Corp., which is supervising the park project, has allocated a fraction of the available 85 acres for developers to build residential towers and a hotel.

Critics of the state’s current plan say the final site will be a well-manicured lawn for the residents who move in, rather than a genuine park. While private restaurants in parks have long been a familiar sight, critics say condos and apartments are not.

“There will be Fresh Direct trucks delivering groceries,” a park activist, Judi Francis, said outside the court yesterday. “When a child decides to kick a ball, it will bounce off of someone’s house.”

Ms. Francis is president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, which filed a lawsuit last month challenging the high-rise housing as a violation of an earlier agreement reached by the city and state.

In court yesterday, a lawyer representing the group said the outcome of the lawsuit will set a precedent for the role developers will be allowed in future parks.

“This is the test case,” the lawyer, Robert Chira, said. It will decide, he said, “whether other parks up and down the waterfront can have private housing in them.”

The city is in the midst of waterfront park projects on both sides of Manhattan, on Governors Island, along the East River in Queens, and in the Greenpoint and Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn, the city said in court filings.

The judge, Lawrence Knipel, said at one point that the lawsuit “may be a test case in certain issues.”

It is not yet clear where planners intend to situate the two residential towers in the park project, which extends for more than 1.2 miles. A spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corp. said the state is soliciting proposals from developers. The state anticipates that revenue in taxes and leases from the residences and hotel will pay for the expected $15.2 million annual upkeep of the park, court filings show. The park will be the largest constructed in Brooklyn since Prospect Park more than a century ago.

Lawyers for the city and the state, which is overseeing the construction, did not respond directly yesterday to claims that high-rises in the Brooklyn Bridge Park are likely to lead to residential outcroppings in other parks.

One lawyer for the state, David Paget, said the case “has enormous consequences and implications for the city,” but did not go into further detail. Judge Knipel allowed the city yesterday to join the lawsuit to defend the current blueprints for the park.

The New York Sun

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