Community Board 2’s decision to pull its representative from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Community Advisory Council (CAC) has caused a stir and raised questions about the role of the community forum.
The CAC is the primary forum through which the community can provide feedback and comments to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC), which operates the 85-acre park on the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO waterfront.
Chairwoman Shirley McRae withdrew CB2’s appointee, Adam Lastowecky, saying that the CAC has become “adversarial” to BBPC.
“I do not mean to suggest that the council should be a sycophantic rubber stamp for the development corporation. There is certainly the possibility for a difference of opinion,” McRae wrote in her Feb. 24 letter to BBPC President Regina Myer. “However, when the two entities are continually of such disparate perspective and opinion, it creates a dysfunctional dynamic that I no longer want the community board to be a party to.”
Since their withdrawal, CB2 has been “taking a beating in the blogosphere,” CB2’s District Manager Robert Perris told theBrooklyn Eagle.
Online, some commenters dissed CB2’s decision, while others complained that BBPC pays no attention to the requests and resolutions of the CAC anyway.
On Friday, Perris further explained CB2’s position.
“The bottom line is this relationship isn’t working,” Perris said.
“With issues like Pier 6 and Pierhouse taking a bigger and bigger place on the agenda, over time it seems like the CAC has become more oppositional to the Development Corp. The dynamics are strange, and somewhat adversarial,” he said.
Brooklyn Bridge Park declined to comment.
CAC stance leaves CB2 in ‘difficult position’
Local advocacy groups are opposing several aspects of the park’s development plans. People for Green Space Foundation has obtained a temporary restraining order that prevents the park from moving ahead with two residential towers planned for Pier 6.
On Monday, Save Pier 6 told the Eagle that the Pier 6 court hearing, scheduled for March 11, has been postponed for two months in order to discuss the “possibility of resolving the litigation.”
According to Lori Schomp, founder of Save Pier 6, “The Park Corporation has asked for this long adjournment to engage in meaningful discussions regarding the future of Brooklyn Bridge Park.” (Check back soon for more on this.)
Another group, Save the View Now, is fighting to lower the height of the Pierhouse development on Pier 1 which partially blocks the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Promenade.
The CAC has voted to support both of these groups, contrary to CB2’s stance.
“We’re in a difficult position,” Perris explained. “We have voted as a body to be in support of the General Park Plan (GPP) and GPP modifications,” he said. “When the CAC says it opposes certain provisions of the GPP, that leaves Adam working contrary to the votes of the full board.”
The CAC issued a statement on Friday expressing their regret over CB2’s withdrawal.
“It came as a great surprise to the CAC members that the Chair of CB2 would remove their representative. We hope that the Chair of CB2 will reconsider her position as we value the participation of the local community board and that of their representative,” the statement reads in part.
The CAC says there is “complete agreement among the surrounding communities on several critical issues: the desire that there be no towers built at the Pier 6 site, that the height of Pierhouse is not in compliance with agreements made with the Park Corporation, and that the schools are overcrowded so that infrastructure issues must be addressed before new population is added from Pier 6. The Corporation has chosen to ignore and to belittle the voice of the community.”
The CAC has asked for a new Environmental Impact Study (EIS), a new GPP and full financial transparency.
Can relationship be mended?
At their March 3 meeting, the CAC discussed the schism.
“Without CB2 coming to us and discussing what their objections are, it is hard to draw any conclusions or make any inferences,” said Brooklyn Heights Association representative Carolyn Ziegler.
“One thing that’s clear is that it’s appropriate for us to initiate, in response to this letter, a dialog with Community Board 2 and try to suss out what the problem is, and what can be done to resolve it and move forward,” said member-at-large Tony Manheim.
Perris says he doesn’t know if the relationship can be mended.
“If it’s going to be fixed, the Development Corp., and all parties, including elected officials, will have to come to an agreement about what is its purpose,” he said.
“We of course left open the possibility of another appointee in the future,” he said. “At this time, however, the relationship is too polarized.”
At a Feb. 26 BBPC board meeting, the park board refused to hear a resolution passed by the CAC to halt the construction projects at Piers 1 and 6 pending a reissued Environmental Impact Study (EIS) — a stance that many of CAC members found troubling.
Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen told Sen. Daniel Squadron’s appointee to the board, Zeeshan Ott, that “the chair decides the agenda” for board meetings, and there was “no mechanism” for adding the CAC’s concerns to the agenda.
CAC members include representatives from nearby neighborhood, tenant and business associations, such as the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association and Brooklyn Heights Association.
CB2 represents Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO and other neighborhoods. According to the CAC bylaws, CB2’s representative always serves as a co-chair of the Council. (The other co-chair is elected.) Their participation is not mandatory, however.
Statement from Brooklyn Bridge Park CAC on the withdrawal of the CB2 representative
It came as a great surprise to the CAC members that the Chair of CB2 would remove their representative. We hope that the Chair of CB2 will reconsider her position as we value the participation of the local community board and that of their representative. We are all sorry to see the withdrawal of their participation. The CAC is an inclusive body that welcomes people from a broad range of backgrounds. It consists of representatives devoted to creating the best possible park to be shared by all people. Given that the private park model is new and experimental there is a great need for community oversight at all stages of development.
The formation of the CAC was mandated by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation’s own charter with the by-laws handed down by the State’s ESDC.
The CAC’s purpose, according to the by-laws “has been established to provide advice to the corporation”. By charter, it consists of members representing “local community, park, environmental, civic, recreation, and business organizations with a relevant interest in or relationship to the park”. Currently, the CAC is acting in an almost unanimous agreement in the resolutions it has passed on very critical issues fundamental to our communities and to our park. The CAC has asked for a new Environmental Impact Study (the last one undertaken ten years ago), a new General Project Plan and full financial transparency that includes the parks financial projections for the next fifty years in order to determine the necessity of creating two new towers at the main park entrance at the end of Atlantic Avenue.
The CAC’s authority derives from the fact that it represents a wide community devoted to creating the best possible park to be shared by all people. Currently, there is complete agreement among the surrounding communities on several critical issues: the desire that there be no towers built at the Pier 6 site, that the height of Pierhouse is not in compliance with agreements made with the Park Corporation, and that the schools are overcrowded so that infrastructure issues must be addressed before new population is added from Pier 6. The Corporation has chosen to ignore and to belittle the voice of the community.