Testimony for Brooklyn Bridge Park Alternative to Housing Hearing

Testimony for Brooklyn Bridge Park Alternative to Housing Hearing

November 30, 2010

Thank you to the Subcommittee on Alternatives to Housing for this opportunity to provide testimony, and to everyone who has come out tonight on this important issue.

As we saw this past summer at Pier 1 and Pier 6, decades of work to secure a park on the waterfront in our community has begun to pay off. Brooklyn Bridge Park is already an extraordinary open space and recreational resources for New Yorkers, and I look forward to working with all the stakeholders to help realize its full potential in the years ahead.

The most significant unanswered question as we face the future of Brooklyn Bridge Park, of course, is how we will pay for it -- and what implications those decisions have for the design, development, access, maintenance, and usage of the park.

I remain firmly opposed to building additional residential development inside the park. High-rise, luxury buildings would narrow access to the park. They would detract not only from the landscape but from the sense of open-ness, of public-ness, that is at the very heart of what this park can and should be. They would risk making the park feel like the backyard of a few wealthy residents. And they would set a terrible precedent for diminishing public open space with development.

Fortunately, there are viable alternatives to pay for Park maintenance:

  • The sale of the Watchtower buildings is likely to generate additional revenue, as for-profit owners replace a not-for-profit, generate new real estate and other taxes, and potentially as some commercial uses are converted to residential ones. These buildings will benefit substantially from Brooklyn Bridge Park, and it is reasonable and appropriate to dedicated some of this new revenue to Park maintenance.
  • The Park Increment Recapture proposal developed by Senator Squadron would appropriately dedicate additional, incremental revenues that will come to the City as property values rise in nearby neighborhoods as a result of the Park.
  • There are many opportunities within and adjacent to the Park for park-appropriate and enhancing concessions, and other revenue-generating uses. Cities around the world, including New York, have seen dramatic improvements in park-related concessions and businesses in recent years. I hope the committee will retain consultants who are expert in this area, and also promote brainstorming by the very creative residents of Brooklyn, to identify new ways of generating revenue that would enhance the Park, rather than threaten or undermine it.

These are just a few ideas for alternatives that I believe are far superior to residential development. I know you will hear other suggestions brought up tonight.

I urge the members of the subcommittee, and especially the representatives of the mayor, to consider these options and listen to the neighbors who have fought long and hard for a Park in this neighborhood. Please do not allow preconceived notions of housing development to close your minds to the wide array of good options that you hear.

When the deal providing for the transfer of Brooklyn Bridge Park was announced last spring, it was discussed as though it would be a City park. If it were a City Park, then the process for alienation and development would involve substantial public participation, most likely requiring ULURP, a vote of the City Council, and a vote of the State Legislature as well.

While I continue to have questions about the governance structure, I will save them for another day. For now, I would simply urge you to insure a level of transparency and community involvement that is equal to or greater than what those processes would involve.

By listening to the community, and working together to develop a package of alternatives that can meet our shared goals without residential development, you will help fulfill the extraordinary promise of Brooklyn Bridget Park.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

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