Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation saw her base salary jump to $190,550 in 2014 from $165,000. She oversees 85 acres of parkland. City Parks commissioner Mitchell Silver receives a salary of $ 208,000. He is responsible for 30,000 acres of parkland.
Executive members of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. received raises as high as nearly 50% between 2013 and 2014, reigniting criticism of their insistence that residential development is needed to pay the park's expenses.
Regina Myer, president of the corporation overseeing the park, saw her base salary bumped to $190,550 in 2014 from $165,000, for example, while General Counsel Suma Mandel got a raise to $125,278 from $85,000, according to publicly available records.
The raises approved during the Bloomberg administration ranged from 11% to 47%, but were not nearly enough to have changed park managers' calculations about how to maintain the waterfront property. The base salary increase for five of the seven executive members totaled $118,990—a fraction of what the corporation predicts will be the $16 million annual operating cost.
But the board did not appear to have discussed the raises in any public meetings. And the revelation that they received a bump while pushing for residential development to fund operations and maintenance has given fresh ammunition to a community group fighting a pair of apartment towers planned for the park’s Pier 6, near the terminus of Atlantic Avenue.
“I find it hard to understand how this park can offer such employee pay increases when similar city agencies haven't awarded any pay raises at all in years, all the while this park is claiming that they don't have enough money and therefore need to build more housing,” said Todd Castilow, a nominated member of Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council, who researched the salary information in public databases.
The new salaries of the executive team are roughly in line with those of counterparts at the city Department of Parks and Recreation and other organizations. Hudson River Park Trust head Madelyn Wils, for example, earned $175,000 in total pay in 2014, according to SeeThroughNY. In other cases, executives at Brooklyn Bridge Park still made less. After her nearly 50% raise, Mandel made about $35,000 less than the general counsel at the Parks Department, a much larger agency with 5,000 properties and 2.6 million trees.
"The salaries reported here are entirely appropriate and consistent with those of park staff across the city," a spokesman for the corporation said in a statement. "This is simply another attempt by a small handful of Pier 6 project opponents to distract from the real issues facing the park."
Staff salaries are proposed by Myer and approved by the board of directors, which also determines and approves the salary for the president, the corporation said, adding that the compensation was approved as part of the operating budget in a public meeting. In addition, salaries topping $100,000 are reported annually to a state budget office.
Dick Dadey, head of the good-government group Citizens Union, said that while executives who run parks should be fairly compensated, government institutions such as the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. should take care to be transparent about wages, especially when engaged in a protracted battle such as the years-long disagreement about how much development is needed to fund upkeep and operations. Dadey sits on the board of the park’s advocacy arm, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, which is separate from the corporation.
“The more transparent an operation is, the less subject it is to accusations that it is hiding something,” said Dadey. “And when the park corporation is under attack as it is, it’s even more important to be as up-front about decisions that it makes.”
Opponents of housing in the park believe that the state will soon vote on the proposed development at Pier 6. It calls for two buildings to be constructed by the team of RAL Development Services and Oliver Realty Group.
High costs of maintaining Brooklyn Bridge Park didn't stop its execs from getting big raises