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Community Offers Alternatives to Housing at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Many in the community are strongly against private residential housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Last night at Long Island College Hospital nearly 100 people gathered to voice their opinions and ideas on how to create revenue that will sustain the maintenance of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Most people who spoke were strongly opposed to the development of private housing in the park and a variety of alternative revenue sources were suggested.

In 2002, the City and State of New York signed a Memorandum of Understanding requiring that Brooklyn Bridge Park be "financially self sufficient with annual operation and maintenance expenses funded by revenue generated from within the project." The 2005 General Project Plan identified five sites within the park as possible development sites, including Pier 6, at the mouth of Atlantic Avenue.

In March 2010, after widespread dissatisfaction with the private housing option, State Senator Daniel Squadron and  proposed another Memorandum Of Understanding calling for a Subcommittee on Alternatives to Housing.  

The public hearing process was a requirement of the memorandum introduced by Squadron and Millman. Last night's hearing was only for public comment -- no questions were answered and no one from the committee spoke.

"It's a park for the people, not an enclave," said Jerry Armer, former Chairperson. "No housing within the park!"

Public officials came out in strong opposition to housing, too.

We need to "keep the park a public entity," said Council Member Steve Levin. "By creating housing as a revenue generating model what it does is privatize the park."

Council Member Brad Lander echoed Levin's comments.

"I'm firmly opposed to building more private housing," said Lander. "There are viable options."

Judi Frances, President of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, a coalition of groups from throughout the borough, said a park funding plan relying largely on one source of revenue, private housing, was irresponsible and unsustainable.

Frances suggested a small tax on residents, vendor payments and philanthropy as other alternatives.

Roy Sloane, President of the Cobble Hill Association, suggested "active use" of Pier 6 with recreational and cultural uses as well as various modes of transportation.

"We need a real park, we want seasonal recreation," he said. Read  published yesterday on Patch.

Many people suggested the Jehovah's Witness complex as a possible revenue generating site, but it was unclear if that property could be considered for funding the maintance of the park.

There were some who suggested finding revenue sources outside of public housing would be difficult.

Henry Stern, former Council Member and Parks Commissioner, reminded those in attendance that commercial development in the park will mean more traffic and more people coming in and out. Stern supported the housing option.

"I can't think of a more peaceful or harmonious use," he said.

While most who gave testimony over the more than two and a half hour hearing were calm and tempered, some were so fed up with the city and Mayor Bloomberg that direct insults and accusations were thrown.

Dorothy Siegel, District Leader in the Working Families Party, called Bloomberg "petulant," "anti-democratic" and "foolish." 

"He's saving New York for the rich people," she yelled, eliciting applause from those in attendance.

The hearing last night in front of the subcommitte was the first of two. The second is on Thursday, Dec. 9 at 6 pm at St. Francis College on Montague Street.  

"This is really serious and important stuff," said Squadron. We have to "make sure it's [the park] truly sustainable."

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