Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lack Of Transparency Cited Over Brooklyn Bridge Park Tobacco Warehouse Bid

Calls to Have The contract Re-Bid

"It is the second time in two weeks that the full media and public were not properly notified, as is required by state and federal law, for what should have been a public meeting at Borough Hall."


Former "Partridge Family" star Susan Dey is the latest person singing the blues over the city’s alleged shady handling of who’ll get control of a historic 19th Century building within Brooklyn Bridge Park.

After hearing some elected officials and community leaders accuse the city of lacking transparency during the selection process for the coveted Tobacco Warehouse contract, the 70s teen idol got up during a Borough Hall session Monday to join in on the criticism and call for the contract to be re-bid, according to the New York Post.

Dey, 58, said she was speaking in support of Prospect Heights-based dance/arts group Lava/Volcano Love, one of two bidders seeking to run cultural, community and education programs at the open-air Tobacco Warehouse in DUMBO. She also said Lava was in the process of expanding services.

The other bidder is St. Anne’s Warehouse, which works out of a building across the street and also provides live theater and other shows.

St. Anne’s is in line to get the contract today because a selection committee that reviewed the bids recommended it get the building space.

The contract will go before the board overseeing the 85-acre park project during a 1:45 pm City Hall session.

Despite weeks of outcry from Councilman Steve Levin, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, state Assemblyman Joan Millman and various civic organizations over an alleged lack of public participation in the selection process, Millman’s Chief of Staff Paul Nelson told the Post he’d be shocked if St. Anne’s doesn’t get the contract.

Nelson, who sits on the board, said he planned to ask for the project to be re-bid but believes he “needs a miracle” because a majority of the board backs St. Anne’s.

The city says it sent out roughly 1,400 "request for proposals" for the contract to different organizations, yet only two bidders applied. There’s been a lot of behind-the-scenes criticism contending the contract was tailor-made so politically connected St. Anne’s would win.

However, Brooklyn Bridge Park spokesperson Ellen Ryan said the selection process was “competitive” and that the park’s board would rely on the public’s feedback before making its final decision today.

Many of the more than 150 people who attended the meeting came to support St. Anne’s, which led some to question why they knew of the meeting yet many media outlets -- including the Post -- did not.

NY1 was one of the few notified, but it ran a TV segment that ignored a lot of the controversy and Dey's comments.

“I felt like this was Atlantic Yards again and Bruce Ratner was stacking a meeting with his union supporters,” said Judi Francis of the watchdog group Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund.

Read More:

Partridge Family star’s feathers ruffled over city’s handling of Tobacco Warehouse bid
New York Post The Brooklyn Blog - November 17, 2010 - By Rich Calder

City hands control of historic warehouse at Brooklyn Bridge Park to DUMBO arts group — despite neighborhood outcry
New York Post The Brooklyn Blog - November 17, 2010 - By Rich Calder

Brownstoner - November 17, 2010

New York Times - November 18, 2010 - By Erik Piepenburg

New York Daily News - November 19, 2010 - By Nicole Carter


  1. I'm not sure what the issue is....The RFP was advertised pubically (I know because I downloaded it), and anyone could have responded. It worked the same way as any other public bid process in the city. The reason why only two organizations responded was because it required a clear operational plan as to how it would work financially, and I'm sure that level of committment scared many possible arts organizations away.

  2. No community organization was invited to participate in any charettes or idea sessions for what their communities might possibly want for this PUBLIC space - not even the associations that abut the property, let alone any that abut the rest of the park. No community organization paticipated in creating the RFP - not the goals, intent, or any other aspect of the document. No community organization participated on the selection committee. One could suggest that had the process been transparent, the RFP 's would have found more, and better quality bidders.

    To add, the Community Advisory Group asked how many bidders were sent the RFP or who the respondants were, just about a week before. Ms. Regina Myer said she could not share that information with them before the selection and public annoucement, but somehow more than 80 business and arts organization leaders showed up to the announcement with pre-typed, prepared letters of support for the chosen organization!

    This is not new nor is it likely to change.

  3. Only an organization with a pre-prepared submission could have pulled together a $15million plan of funding, with 1/3 of that amount already committed, in the two weeks they originally were given to fill out the RFP! Come on, is the Anonymous in the first blog really just a foil for the BBP DC or have they been living on Mars for the past 6 years?

  4. Nope, I'm not a "foil for the BBP DC", just an architect that does public work and a Brooklyn resident that believes Brooklyn Bridge Park should NOT be a palatte for design by democracy, but IS a gift to the neighborhood. Haven't been living on Mars for 6 years, just Cobble Hill.

    One correction, Anonymous 3 - they were given two months to respond to the RFP, not two weeks. It was released August 24 and due October 18.
    Considering that St. Ann's needed to raise money to move no matter what, and that the Tobacco Warehouse is such a cool, compelling opportunity, I don't think it speaks of any malfeasance that they were able to get their donors to commit funding on short notice.

    --Anonymous 1

  5. To correct the last writer: the bidders for the Tobacco Warehouse RFP were given 4 weeks to respond but when the politicians as well as the leaders of all the community associations in the area protested in a hastily called mid-August meeting, the BBP entity gave the bidders an extra couple of weeks. So, the issue of lack of transparency continues - no arts organization could possibly pull together such a complex RFP in such a short amount of time. As for the "design by democracy" I suppose the writer is not from Mars but Mayor Bloomberg himself! The best architects know that they are better with the insights and help of their clients.The public being the client for this park - but it is now a mess and the architect is sharing lots of the blame.