At a meeting on Thursday, the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) presented updated financial figures to bolster its contention that a two-tower development at Pier 6 is necessary to fund the park.
Community groups and the park’s Community Advisory Council (CAC) maintain that development of Pier 6 is unnecessary. Following the board’s presentation, these groups called for more transparency.
The board says it has refined its initial cost estimates or used different methods to compute them.
The 2005 cost estimate to maintain the maritime infrastructure – the piers and their supporting piles –was “simplistic,” BBPC said. Marine infrastructure is anticipated to be one of the park’s major expenses.
Maritime expenses have escalated from $700 per linear foot in 2010 to $1,100 per linear foot in 2015, according to figures presented by the board. This growth is being driven by “an improved local economy, numerous active projects in New York Harbor and a limited number of specialty contractors,” the board contends.
This contention drew some questions from board member Councilman Stephen Levin, who wondered if a national or even international contractor could be found who would be less expensive.
“A firm from Amsterdam? Sweden?” he asked.
Levin also noted that there was no unified RFP to bid out the maritime contracting jobs, which have been done on a piecemeal basis.
Board chair Glen admitted that an RFP that included “a lot of work at one time” might bring in more bidders.
“But it’s a tightly restrained market right now,” she said. “Opening the bidding to international bidders could bring further complex problems. We need further conversation on this.”
Levin said he remained unconvinced.
The board recommended making a large initial outlay for pier repair and maintenance, rather than paying to repair the vulnerable piers on an as-needed basis. It called this the “preventative approach,” and said it would save money in the long run.
The board said it has also refined its method of determining capital maintenance expense estimates. In 2005, capital maintenance expenses were figured to run $2 million a year. In 2012 and again in 2015, this figure rose to roughly $5 million per year.
Operating expenses are estimated to increase three percent a year due to inflation.
The board also presented figures relating to revenues from rent, PILOTs (Payment in Lieu of Sales Tax) and PILOMRT (Payment in Lieu of Mortgage Recording Tax).
PILOTs from 1 Brooklyn Bridge Park fell below budgeted levels because a resident challenged them and received a reduction, the board said. PILOTs were also lowered for two years in response to Hurricane Sandy.
Zeeshan Ott, representing State Senator Daniel Squadron on the BBPC, brought up a letter from Comptroller Scott Stringer calling on the board to be more transparent. BBPC President Regina Myer said the board was planning on responding to the letter.
Myer said the park is 65 percent complete, and ten percent of it is under construction. She listed the status of a number of developments, including the settling of a lawsuit with the group People for Green Space, which is fighting development on Pier 6. The settlement calls for a public hearing with a comment period. She also discussed the partial TRO in place on the penthouse of the Pierhouse development near Pier 1.
– The John Street development is expected to top out at the end of June and be completed in mid-2016, Myer said.
– Squibb Park Bridge is still undergoing repairs and an investigation on what caused its misalignment, is expected to be re-opened in mid-July.
– The roof and windows are being worked on at the Empire Stores location, which has signed Vinegar Hill House, Pizza East and West Elm as tenants.
– St. Ann’s Warehouse is on track for its fall inaugural season.
CAC wants new RFP; Board declines to consider
In view of the recent settlement of the Pier 6 litigation, the CAC passed a resolution on June 2 requesting that the park not award a lease to a Pier 6 developer under the current RFP. Rather, CAC wants the current RFP to be withdrawn and a new RFP issued following a modified General Park Plan (GPP).
Myer called the RFP process for Pier 6 “thorough” and said the board would not issue a new RFP.
Myer also said the board would decline to take action on a CAC resolution regarding Pier 1, as it is subject to a lawsuit.
Zeeshan Ott asked why the board did not vote on several CAC resolutions that have come before the body.
“We have voted several times [on resolutions] in the past,” Myer responded. “We don’t believe a new RFP is needed. The point is to move through the process.”
“So there’s no mechanism to add agenda items?” Ott persisted.
Glen responded, “If we receive an item well in advance of the meeting, Regina or I will determine if it’s worthy of adding to the agenda.”
Three members of the board, including Glen, left before attendees were given a chance to make their comments, something some attendees took as a slight.
Levin agreed to stay on as volunteer chair so the meeting could continue and community comments could be heard by the remaining board members.
“There was enough advance notice of this meeting given,” said Tony Manheim. “To have three members of the board leave . . . is insulting.”
Manheim questioned why the maritime work, especially under the preferred “preventative” plan, is considered an operating rather than a capital budget item, and why debt financing, which is widely used by other parks, wouldn’t be considered, especially in today’s favorable environment.