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 café 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.
The New York Post - The Brooklyn Blog - February 15, 2011 - By Rich Calder
A Walk In The Park - January 19, 2011
A Walk In The Park - November 17, 2010