Brooklyn Bridge Park to tower critics: No more study

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Renderings of the Brooklyn waterfront. ( Brooklyn Bridge Park)
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The administrators of Brooklyn Bridge Park have looked into complaints that the development of two towers on the greensward’s edge requires more environmental study, and found them without merit. 

On Friday, the city-controlled Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation will release a study it commissioned from AKRF, an environmental engineering firm, which finds that although the two new towers will be built several years after an original study was completed, the development's additional environmental impact will be insignificant.

“After evaluating the potential impacts on 19 distinct environmental categories—including schools, flood resiliency, traffic and open space—and incorporating any relevant updated changes to the project, the environmental regulations and background conditions, the technical memorandum concludes that the Pier 6 uplands project would not have any additional significant impacts,” according to a statement from Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The city’s decision not only to move forward with the two towers but to include affordable housing in them has sparked outrage in neighboring Brooklyn Heights and among residents of One Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is located next to the planned towers and, like them, was created to supplement the revenue stream of a park that is supposed to be self-sustaining.

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It was last spring that park administration said the towers wouldn't have to include as many market rate units as originally planned, thanks to more robust than expected real estate market.

At the time, Mayor Bill de Blasio was just rolling out his ambitious plan to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing, and decided to take advantage of the park's improving finances to make 30 percent of the Pier 6 units "affordable."

The towers' critics say that they aren't being elitist and that their opposition isn't rooted in the fact that they will lose some of their majestic views of New York Harbor. They argue it's a question of urban planning.

“Our answer has and will continue to be that we oppose building unnecessary private residences in what should be park space in perpetuity in a borough that’s the fastest growing in the entire city but with the least amount of park space,” Lori Schomp, of People for Green Space, who lived until recently in a $7.6 million townhouse, told the Brooklyn Heights Blog recently.

This summer, Schomp’s organization sued the park. In its complaint, it argued that not only was the park building more apartments than the financial viability of the greensward technically required, but because conditions in the borough had changed since the last environmental review, a new one was needed.

Some elected officials have also voiced concerns.

The park offered to commission the analysis to see whether in fact a new environmental impact statement was needed.

Its consultant’s findings support its original stance.

The study determined that with the full development of Pier 6’s 430 units of housings, the amount of park space per 1,000 residents within a half-mile radius would increase from 1.41 acres today to 1.86 acres.

The citywide average is 1.5 acres.

If Pier 6’s 3.6 acres of planned parkland were fully built out without any additional adjacent housing, there would be 1.9 acres per 1,000 residents.

The study determined that by 2018, even without Pier 6 housing, elementary schools would be at 140.6 percent capacity. With the 430 units, they would be at 144.3 percent, an increase the study deemed insignificant. 

And no intersections near Pier 6 would see increases in traffic of more than 50 peak hour vehicle trips.

The park is now reviewing proposals from 14 different developers interested in building the towers.

Asked for comment, a spokesman for People for Green Space sent over the following statement from the group's attorney, Frank Carone: “A report that finds that more overcrowded schools, greater traffic impact, dramatically greater park usage and less available park land as insignificant indicates they are responding more to the interests of the park corporation that commissioned it than the surrounding community."

Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation spokeswoman Belinda Cape emailed the following response: ""While casting this assessment as unprofessional may make for good rhetoric, the Technical Memorandum commissioned by Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation in response to community concerns was conducted in compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act and its implementing regulations, as well as the City Environmental Quality Review and the Technical Manual. The long-planned Pier 6 uplands project will provide critical long-term funding for the maintenance and operations of the entire park as well as provide permanently affordable housing without any City subsidies. With that in mind, we’ll let the assessment findings speak for themselves."

CORRECTION: The original version of this article said that Lori Schomp "lives" in a $7.6 million townhouse. According to a representative, she recently moved out, and currently lives in an apartment in northern Brooklyn Heights.