An editorial that appeared in the Brooklyn Heights Press back in November 2015 says it all. My friends from Brooklyn Heights and I are reprinting those words here, as a reminder that Mayor Bill de Blasio is wrong about Pier 6.
Readers seeking other assurances that the Pier 6 plan smells bad can find confirmation in a number of places other than this humble curmudgeon committee. You can look at the citywide news about developer RAL’s desperate lobbying efforts to do his project; you can read the website of the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA), a watchdog group that has tried to protect the interests of Brooklyn’s first landmark district since its founding in 1910; you can look at the statements by so many elected and public officials who disagree with the mayor on this one.
In fact, we go even farther than the BHA and the elected officials: we think it is nuts to create affordable, subsidized housing on a footprint that is, by its very definition, supposed to yield maximum revenue for the park.
Then or now, no one here finds anything but admiration for de Blasio’s political legacy. He wants to build more affordable housing in the city than anyone has ever attempted. Bravo! But Pier 6 is the wrong spot at the wrong time. It’s deDumb, deDubious and deGrading.
The mayor degrades the hard work that so many intelligent and caring people spent to create guidelines for a rare public opportunity. The concept for the park originated in Brooklyn Heights in the earnest labor of neighborhood activism. That same activism will be around long after the mayor and his generous developer donors are dead and buried. Today, their impulses are in conflict with adjacent thriving historic brownstone communities. RAL: go somewhere else or make a different footprint here. De Blasio: bury the hatchet with whatever unnamed political enemies you are still fighting in Brooklyn Heights.
A larger constituency than your donors and lackeys should decide the key elements in something that will outlast us all. Indeed, that very constituency handed to you on a platter the idea and the opportunity for this unique, urban waterfront park.
(For perspective, below is the original editorial that appeared in the Heights Press.)
Pier 6 Out of Scale: Let Big Bill Step Forward and Take the Heat
It is clear that the rebel forces who oppose a larger housing package on Pier 6, brought about by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mandated “affordable” quotas, are not going away. Almost all of the elected officials representing affected areas oppose the de Blasio plan, or ask for further study of the impact. As our news columns indicate today, competent professionals are still taking issue with the analysis put forth by the mayor’s minions.
Although the origins are unclear, the imperative for “let’s get it done now” seems to be only to accommodate (1) the mayor’s political agenda on affordable inventory and (2) a developer who has donated hundreds of thousands to de Blasio.
While the mayor has remained silent himself on the issue, lots of nice, well-meaning people who work for Brooklyn Bridge Park have been taking the heat from community groups and elected officials.
It’s time for the mayor himself to come out publicly and verbally, to answer a very key question: if the undisputed park mandate is to build only housing needed to support the park, why in hell would you throw ANY housing into the mix that is less than market value?
We accept the premise that unforeseen expenses of having a waterfront park mandate a certain amount of housing — hopefully high priced housing — on Pier 6. It was always part of the plan. And, yes, we applaud the mayor’s long-term goals for more affordable housing in the city. But at Pier 6, it is not appropriate and defies common sense.
In this period of intense examination of what The New York Times has called a “shadow government” of consultants and big donors, it seems prudent for the mayor to allow for a re-evaluation of the proposal that is currently under review for Pier 6.
No matter how many New Yorkers — particularly future New Yorkers — will benefit from his progressive policies in affordable housing and education, he cannot afford to crush today the urban spirits of so many middle-class stakeholders in the historic communities surrounding Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The impact of so many new units of housing, at any price, has never been properly assessed in the stable, historic neighborhoods that sit on both sides of Atlantic Avenue near the waterfront. With so many consultants available to the mayor now, let him find one that his fellow elected officials will approve.
As Johnny Cochran might say: “Clean Up the Mess, Time to Reassess.”
— Originally published in Brooklyn Heights Press, November 2015