Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Feds Defend Tobacco Warehouse Giveaway

Advocates say Brooklyn Bridge Park misled the federal government when it turned over the Tobacco Warehouse to developers.

As expected the National Park Service (NPS) defended its decision to remove the Tobacco Warehouse property in Brooklyn Bridge Park from Federal protection. On February 14, 2011 the NPS sent a letter to Andy Beers, Acting NYS parks commissioner and the Brooklyn Heights Association, informing them of its decision. NPS's decison is the subject of a State and federal lawsuit charging that state park officials secretly and illegally removed the Tobacco Warehouse to allow St. Anne’s Warehouse, an arts group, to occupy the space.

A federal grant was administered by the NPS under the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a national grant program designed to help create and maintain outdoor recreational sites. In 2001 the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) requested LWCF funds for park improvements. As a condition for receiving funds the NPS required that NYSOP agree to never allow the parkland to be alienated. The facility was to be maintained in public outdoor recreation "in perpetuity." State Parks reneged on this agreement. - Geoffrey Croft


The National Parks Service today ruled a popular DUMBO arts group can move forward with its $15 million plan to relocate and expand operations to a historic 19th-century building within the massive waterfront park, according to the New York Post.

St. Ann’s Warehouse plans to bring community events and live theater to the currently roofless remains of the Tobacco Warehouse building by 2013.

The US Justice Department last month ordered the Parks Service to review the project after grass-roots groups and preservationists filed two lawsuits claiming the building was illegally removed by the city from federal parkland protection. But the Parks Service backed the city’s position that the warehouse is not restricted to outdoor recreation.

St. Ann’s proposal includes two performance spaces, including a 10,000-square-foot theater to accommodate 300-700 people and a 2,100-square-foot flexible space that could accommodate an audience of 125. The 7,600-square-foot triangular section of the warehouse will be left open-air and is envisioned as a walled public garden with cafĂ© tables and chairs.

The remainder of the site will include a lobby, public restrooms and performance-support space.

The city is allowing subtenants to use some of the space within the warehouse. Five have already inquired, including the nonprofit Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy – which offers park programming — and the Brooklyn Flea.

Regina Myer, president of the city’s Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp., hailed the decision, saying it would "allow for the preservation of this historic warehouse and reuse as a vibrant cultural and community venue. A world-class performance space and open-air garden will greatly benefit Brooklyn Bridge Park and the surrounding communities."

But project opponents said they still planned to follow through with the lawsuits.

"The announcement from the National Park Service in the Tobacco Warehouse case should shock anyone committed to good government," said Jane McGroarty, president of the Brooklyn Heights Association, one of the plaintiffs.

"It’s clear that the National Park Service — an agency charged with protecting our public parkland — has reneged on this duty and has yielded to political pressure from City Hall. Our lawsuit continues, and we will litigate vigorously so that these ‘back room’ deals do not rob the public of what is rightfully theirs."

St. Ann’s, which is moving across the street from its Water Street location, needs a new home because its landlord, DUMBO developer David Walentas, plans to take its existing site to move forward on a controversial 17-story development that opponents charge will block scenic views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Read More:

Feds greenlight DUMBO arts group’s plan to expand operations to historic 19th Century Tobacco Warehouse

The New York Post - The Brooklyn Blog - February 15, 2011 - By Rich Calder

Feds illegally Gave Away Tobacco Warehouse In Brooklyn Bridge Park - Suit

A Walk In The Park - January 19, 2011

Lack Of Transparency Cited Over Brooklyn Bridge Park Tobacco Warehouse Bid

A Walk In The Park - November 17, 2010

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