It’s a great park; now open up the books.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has joined the list of city officials urging Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP) to shed more light on its finances.
The park is required to support itself through revenues from development within the site. Advocacy groups and local officials, however, maintain that the park has presented incomplete or even misleading financials to justify building two towers at Pier 6.
On May 1, the comptroller sent a letter to Regina Myer, the park’s president, urging the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) to “improve the transparency of its financial statements and give greater detail to the public on past, present and future budget projections.”
While praising the beautiful waterfront park and BBPC for its stewardship and commitment, Stringer noted that “there is more than can and should be done to broaden public access to BBPC’s finances.”
“The letter I sent to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation requesting greater financial transparency is the result of an independent analysis by my office, meetings with various stakeholders, and attending numerous public hearings,” Comptroller Stringer told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday.
“Everyone agrees that the Brooklyn Bridge Park has been an enormous success, drawing visitors from the five boroughs and around the world. However, this has understandably raised new community concerns like neighborhood planning, traffic, and school overcrowding,” he said. “I believe that enhanced financial transparency will allow all parties to engage in a dialogue that will ensure that the park will continue to be a cherished space, while balancing the needs of the community.”
While not subject to a state law requiring key budget and finance details be made public, several public entities similar to BBP, including the Hudson River Trust, are subject to the law, and as a result provide “significantly more information to the public than BBPC,” Stringer noted.
As an example, Stringer pointed out that while BBP has published figures projecting potential maritime repair costs over the next 50 years, it only provides revenue and operating expenses for the next five years.
“As a result, some community members have questioned BBPC’s conclusion that funding would fall short, especially given the increase in potential revenues when tax abatements begin to expire in the coming years,” he wrote in the letter.
Stringer added that increasing transparency is not only “a financially prudent step,” but would improve trust and ensure the park’s long-term support.
BBPC had no comment for this article. But park officials have maintained that they have been above-board with financials. At BBPC’s November board meeting at St. Francis College, after numerous calls from the public for more figures, Myer said the board was acting in a fully transparent manner.
“At the last meeting, in August, we went through a very thorough Powerpoint at the request of our board, which explains our cash flow for the next five years up until a stabilized time,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle. “And at that stabilized rate, we show that with the development of Pier 6, we would be able to fund all the maintenance and operation needs of the park, as well as the infrastructure that is so necessary for the park’s well-being.”
Lori Schomp, who, with Martin Hale, heads the People for Green Space foundation and the related group Save Pier 6, said the Stringer letter indicated that the conversation about the park’s “lack of transparency” was growing in momentum.
“And now the city’s financial watch dog is on the case! A win for [the] community!” she wrote via email.
“I want to commend Comptroller Stringer for calling on the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp to provide fully transparent financial disclosure that is consistent with information provided by other similar organizations,” said Steven Guterman, who heads Save the View Now. STVN is trying to shrink a development on Pier 1 that partially blocks the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Promenade.
“For too long we have heard the BBPC say they are transparent, while only providing a bare minimum of information about both financial and non-financial aspects of the park,” he added.
In October, seven Brooklyn and New York City officials joined the park’s Community Advisory Board (CAC) in requesting financial justification for the Pier 6 towers. The CAC and the officials sent a letter to Myer requesting a 50 year cash flow projection for the park, a line-by-line expense analysis and other figures.
Signing the letter were state Sen. Daniel Squadron, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Public Advocate Letitia James, then-Assemblymember Joan Millman and then-Assembly-nominee Jo Anne Simon (current Assemblymember) and Councilmembers Brad Lander and Stephen Levin.