Wednesday, August 02, 2006

In the News: Debate Rages on Housing at Planned Brooklyn Park

Brooklyn Bridge Park has the potential to be one of the greatest waterfront parks in the world someday. The only problem is that it has yet to be created. In 2002, the Port Authority and other local, State and Federal agencies agreed to develop an 85-acre park on old maritime piers located just south of the Brooklyn Bridge. However, with construction costs at $150 million and maintenance at $15 million a year the plan included private development within the boundaries of the park in order to generate a revenue stream. Now government agencies, non-profits, developers and local residents are continuing to debate "When is a park not a park?" writes the NY Times. JB

By Sam Roberts
July 23, 2006

If 1,200 or so high-rise apartments, a hotel and other private buildings occupy about one-tenth of the land reserved for a park project, is it still a park?

The city and state are poised to transform a 1.3-mile stretch of derelict docks and warehouses in Brooklyn Heights into a ribbon of recreation. The 85-acre site, which offers breathtaking views of Manhattan, would include lawns, rolling hills, ball fields, bikeways, a marina, a restaurant, a hotel and, to the dismay of some neighborhood residents, three new luxury apartment towers ranging in height from 95 to 315 feet, along with parking.

The debate over the Brooklyn Bridge Park reprises controversies over the West Side of Manhattan and raises fundamental urban planning questions: When is a park not a park? And how far should government go in granting concessions to developers — in this case, allowing profitmaking housing on public land — to subsidize nonessential public services?

Both sides in the debate, which is also being played out in court, ascribe dark motives to their opponents.

Last week, the Sierra Club weighed in, declaring that “the park had been co-opted by the interests of real estate developers” and warning that “for the very first time, private housing, parking and what might also be a private marina” were being planned inside a park.

Supporters of the plan say that the critics would go to any lengths — even no park — to discourage people from driving into the neighborhood or traipsing through from subways and buses.

“The opposition is people who may have their views blocked, people who on principle oppose commercial development of any kind within the context of creation of a park, and people who may feel they agreed to the concept but now that they know what it is they oppose it,” said Adrian Benepe, the city’s parks commissioner. “Some of the opponents like the neighborhood the way it is and don’t want outsiders,” he continued.

As a park, the site presents challenges — it sits isolated below the Heights and much of it is cut off by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Still, until recently, the project seemed a paradigm of cooperative, if prolonged, planning.

Read more:

Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy

Brooklyn Bridge Development Corporation

Google Map of Future Site of Brooklyn Bridge Park,-73.994508&spn=0.014414,0.028925&t=h&om=1

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