By Harold Egeln
Feature article in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS – Sitting down at the Eagle’s office within blocks of the growing Brooklyn Bridge Park, state Sen. Daniel Squadron stated in detail his vision of the park and, in doing so, hoped to dispel any misconceptions about his support.
“I think the park has incredible potential for the city and Brooklyn. My role is to push as hard as I can for the park,” the Democratic freshman legislator said in an interview with this newspaper’s editor and a reporter.
“We have an opportunity to do for the 21st century what was done in the 19th century in creating parks. In order to do that, we got to build this park in the best way with the absolutely most ambitious plan for the park,” said Squadron.
The young senator was elected on a reform platform one year ago in the district that covers Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, DUMBO, Brooklyn Navy Yard, parts of Williamsburg, Governors Island and much of lower Manhattan up to East 14th Street.
In envisioning the full potential of the park in its current framework, in order to make it a year-round recreation venue he proposed a “winter bubble” structure. He would also like to see a floating or permanent pool similar to the “Floating Pool Lady” of two seasons ago; the promised water-taxi service; an ice-skating rink (which he said has been “in and out of the park plan”); and a recreational, community and arts center.
Also essential to the park, he said, are a sufficient amount of parkland and a “transparent governing structure.”
“I envision this as part of group of waterfront parks [along with Governors Island, Hudson River Park and several others] that could become a Central Park for the center of the city,” he said.
Squadron ran on a platform of opposition to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation’s plans for two condo towers near Atlantic Avenue and a third at the park’s DUMBO end, and he still feels that way.
Instead, he visualizes a scenario in which “the city dedicates a portion of the increased property tax revenue it realizes –due to rising property values from certain rezonings and the park – to fund the park’s operations.”
“We should redirect increased property tax revenues in properties within half-a-mile of the park. To be clear, this would not be an increased property tax,” he elaborated.
Aside from the park increment recapture plan (PIRC) he mentioned that concessions are also planned to provide a revenue stream.
Reminded that the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation has said that engineering studies found that alternate structures on the piers to fund the park were not structurally feasible, Squadron said, “I don’t believe in a plan where there’s only one alternative [for funding].”
At any rate, he said that it would be “insane” to build the condo towers under today’s real-estate market conditions.
The park has to be “built quickly” and governed by “harbor park and maritime infrastructure task forces” along with community and state legislative input, he said.
Albany Reform and Governor’s Race
Voted into office at age 28 riding a wave crest of voter demand for Albany reform and a new face after Martin Connor’s long tenure, Squadron reiterated his reform program plans. This comes after a tumultuous year driven by an engineered revolt by Republicans and two Democrats who later backtracked.
“When democracy breaks down, people, whether Democrat or Republican, really get involved,” he said of those upset by the scenes that made national news and disrupted the legislative process during the worst recession since the 1930s.
“With Republicans in charge for so long before Democrats won senate control last year, there were no relationships across the aisle. This created a poisoned culture,” said Squadron, adding that a dysfunctional Albany set the stage for the government crisis.
Squadron sees “a better and more transparent Senate” as Albany moves to effective reform rather than disorder. “We passed an historic rules reform. As of this January, the state Senate leader will no longer have the final say on what bills to bring to the floor, as done for many years.”
The change is a significant reform landmark, he explained. “Now a majority of members will be able to call on which bills can be brought to the floor, allowing the majority of members to make the choice. We have it. Now we’re working on ethics reform.”
An ethics reform bill passed the Assembly but it lost in the Senate by one vote in September, with one senator unable to make it due to a family illness, Squadron noted. The legislation comes up again in 2010. “This is the key to real reform. Passing it will create a culture shift for Albany,” he said.
When asked about the 2010 governor’s race and support for either the election bid by Gov. David Paterson, at a low point in polls, or a campaign by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Squadron deftly stood on careful political footing.
“The governor just went on television with campaign commercials. He’s the only guy running now,” Squadron said of Paterson.