A preservationist group fighting to preserve the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade is headed back to court with what it says is new evidence revealing Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. (BBPC) and developer Toll Brothers “misled the public” about the height of the Pierhouse hotel/condo complex at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The advocacy group Save The View Now (STVN) says that city agencies just now released a copy of the building plans that reveal the “bulkheads” atop the Pierhouse go far beyond the usual building mechanicals, and are, in fact, illegal structures.
State Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Knipel had decided against STVN on June 12, ruling that construction could proceed on the Pierhouse’s penthouse.
On July 22, STVN filed a motion to amend their complaint and renew their motion for a preliminary injunction based on the new evidence. The court appearance takes place on Thursday, July 30.
“After lengthy delays caused by city agencies, we received a copy of the building plans which reveal that the bulkheads are designed to contain an enclosed kitchen, food service and preparation areas, an ‘outdoor’ shower, six separate elevators and vestibules (which exceed the permitted square footage for vestibules), and a separate room for ‘pool equipment,’” STVN told the Brooklyn Eagle.
STVN said that the plans show additional structures including food and bar areas, raised decks, awnings and a structured canopy for wedding/event space.
The park says that the developers have complied with all New York City zoning laws and have been transparent about the height of the development since it was planned in 2005.
Toll Brothers and Starwood Capital Group responded to STVN’s charges on Tuesday in a joint statement, saying, “In June, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that the Pierhouse development is being built in a way that conforms with the approved project plan. We are confident that the court will also find these new claims to be without merit.”
STVN charges abuse of public trust
STVN says that the park “failed to enforce the agreements made in 2005 and 2006 with the public to protect and improve the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Promenade. BBPC’s blatant misrepresentation and deceit is appalling, especially for a government agency put in place to protect the public’s interest.”
BBPC’s 17-member board is chosen by the mayor, the governor and local elected officials. The chair of BBPC is Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, a former Goldman Sachs executive charged with carrying out Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to build more affordable housing.
While the Pierhouse project does not include affordable housing, Glenn has been pushing hard on another controversial development in Brooklyn Bridge Park at Pier 6, which would contain affordable units.
The city wants to modify the park’s Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) to allow the inclusion of this affordable housing, and to potentially eliminate the requirement that the Pier 6 development be required to support the park financially. A public hearing on this topic, expected to attract ardent opposition, will be held on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen St.
Advocates fighting the Pier 6 development say the board has engaged in unfair pressure to drum up support. The group People for Greenspace, which is trying to halt the Pier 6 development, says BBPC has pressured a camp using the park for its summer programs to urge parents to write letters to the Empire State Development Corp. (ESD) supporting the Pier 6 development.
“It is inappropriate for the park corporation to be leaning on the groups beholden to it to support its position,” People for Greenspace writes.
Parents of children attending the Oasis summer program received letters saying, “. . . I know that the Brooklyn Bridge Conservancy would appreciate it if you could write a short note supporting this final phase of the project and maybe even volunteer to share your thoughts on July 30th at a public hearing.” Parents received a sample letter to send to the ESD.
According to People for Greenspace, the letter actually came from BBPC, not the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, which has so far stayed above the fray.
The Pierhouse legal decision
Justice Knipel’s June decision against STVN rested mainly on two points. In the first, while an understanding with the community on height limits may have been reached, those limits were not incorporated into the MGPP, Knipel wrote.
The understanding to limit structures on the rooftop to the 100- and 55-foot height cap was discussed in a 2005 email from architect Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and in comment 224 of the “Response to Comments on the DEIS” (Draft Environmental Impact Statement).
But the understanding was not incorporated “into the all-important MGPP,” Justice Knipel wrote.
While the limits may not be delineated in the MGPP, STVN says it has just obtained copies of the property leases between BBPC and Toll Brothers, which detail the maximum height limit for the Pierhouse buildings. In the documents, Parcel A (the hotel parcel) has a maximum height limit of 100 feet, and Parcel B (the condo parcel) has a maximum height limit of 55 feet, with no listed exemptions, according to STVN.
Knipel also ruled in June that the plaintiffs waited too long to sue, because the action was subject to a four-month statute of limitations.
The four-month timer starts to run “from the date a claimant was ‘aggrieved’ by the governmental action.”