Condos may be a no go at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Daniel L. Squadron

March 24, 2009

By Jotham Sederstrom

Feature article in The Daily News

Condos be damned.

Increased tax revenue from an anticipated residential boom in DUMBO could eliminate the need for the controversial condos in Brooklyn Bridge Park, according to a local leader.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron insisted a zoning plan expected to be approved for DUMBO later this year could create up to a $20 million property tax windfall that could be used to maintain the park.

"Housing within the park's boundaries is a mistake that risks turning it into someone's backyard," said Squadron (D-Brooklyn Heights). "This plan is a win-win-win: It's a win for the life of the park, it's a win for getting it built quickly and it's a win for getting it funded."

The proposal comes amid a slumping economy that has affected the sale of the condos, which were envisioned as a way to cover maintenance of the costly $350 million park.

Although more than 1,200 luxury condos are planned to take care of maintenance and operating costs, fewer than half have been built and only about a third of those have actually sold.

Currently in public review, the 12-block DUMBO rezoning plan would allow development of residential and commercial buildings to thrive where once only manufacturing existed.

Although a community group has proposed an alternative zoning plan, Squadron said either plan would spur development and bring in an estimated $20 million over the next five years, and $9 million each year after that.

The changes will draw more tax-paying property owners to DUMBO as more residential buildings surface, Squadron said.

A spokesman for Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber said a portion of the expected property tax revenues in DUMBO is already earmarked for the development of affordable housing.

"Several of the state senator's suggestions are absolutely worth exploring," said spokesman Andrew Brent. "We would have concerns about a plan that relies on tax revenue from DUMBO to pay for the park, especially when you consider that new development will almost certainly include affordable housing through the 421-A program."

Two playgrounds, a dog run and rolling meadows along the waterfront are slated to be completed by the summer of 2010. Pier 6, with its volleyball courts, a playground and concessions, is expected by the end of the year.

A spokesman for the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corp. was dismissive when told of Squadron's plan, suggesting that the condo scheme was not likely to be reconsidered.

"With $4.3 million generated by the current residential properties for operations and maintenance and another $3 million to come on-line in 2010 and 2011, we are committed to the current development plan approved by the community, mayor and governor," spokesman Warner Johnston