The new Pierhouse development located at Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 1 will include luxury condos, a hotel, and a rooftop bar. It will not include affordable housing. It sits behind the park lawns, but in front of Brooklyn Heights, blocking views from certain public areas (and private homes). This has caused a debate (and prompted the DOB to place a stop work order on one of the buildings) in the neighborhood that echoes the outcry of Robert Moses trying to cram the BQE through it, so we've asked for op-eds from both sides. This note replying to last week's editorial in favor of the Pierhouse is from Judi Francis, President of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, which has steadfastly opposed the creation of any housing in the park.

Pierhouse last August, from park-level (Jen Carlson / Gothamist)

What is most compelling about last week’s article by the President of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, Regina Myer, is her unswerving dedication to plunder one of our nation’s great icons, the Brooklyn Bridge. By not addressing the fact that housing inside Brooklyn Bridge Park has had a pernicious effect on the park overall, and the views of the Bridge in particular, Ms. Myer’s wooden-headedness is complete in its disregard for the importance of this landmark, local families’ dire need of more parklands, and the truth that this park was built to celebrate the Great Bridge for which it is named.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Housing inside this (or any) park is unnecessary. There are many ways to pay for our parks without resorting to private housing inside a park’s borders. Alternate funding sources are well documented. But Ms. Myer’s previous bosses—Bloomberg and Pataki—were fixated on selling Brooklyn’s magnificent harbor views to real estate developers, so they fabricated a gold-plated maintenance budget to justify housing in the park.

Today, a new group of park activists, People for Green Spaces Foundation, have found that the park is already fully funded without any new housing, so why does Ms. Myer perpetrate the myth and stick to the original housing plan? Her laser beam focus on selling the assets of our park and our Bridge ignores the simple and unassailable fact that this was conceived, planned and advocated for 30 years as a PARK and not a housing development for a reason: We need park lands as much as we need other critical services to make our city livable for all residents.

Ms. Myer’s final argument that “without housing there would be no park” is the grandest misdirection of all.

The City and State committed funds to build the park without housing in 2001. There were sufficient funds in the 2001 Master Plan to sustain the park with park-appropriate activities, concessions, philanthropy, and no housing. Lest we forget that day in November 2001 when the Mayor, Governor and a large group of citizens gathered along the shoreline against the backdrop of the still-smoldering World Trade Center, and declared that this park would be the first step in rebuilding the city. The Great, beautiful, and famous Bridge was heralded as the centerpiece of NYC’s rebirth.


(Above: BBP looking north to what was once visible to Brooklynites: The Great Bridge’s iconic towers and its long span as one, whole, inclusive icon)

This is what a park-user now sees strolling through Brooklyn Bridge Park: looming condo towers with floor to ceiling windows cantilevered over park walkways. It is unsettling for parkgoers, and I would think, park-dwellers alike. (Unless you are an exhibitionist).

How could anyone think these buildings are appropriate inside a public park?


 (Above: Pierhouses development inside Brooklyn Bridge Park with floor to ceiling windows looming over the park’s walkways)

The views are most obviously compromised from inside the park, and from other vantage points in Brooklyn to the north and south of the Bridge as well. The Development Corporation worked hard to take down a landmarked building in the north end of the park to “open up views to the river” so, following this same logic, why wouldn’t Ms. Myer have worked equally hard to take down the Cold Storage buildings to open up views to the Bridge—again, a Bridge for which this park is named?

Ignoring community visionaries who developed and advocated for the park over 30 years in order to serve the interests of real estate developers (and, some would say, self-interests of Park Board members who have recently bought into this complex), has been the undoing of what could have, and should have been NYC’s greatest-ever park. It is now a lovely walkway to gaze into people’s new living rooms, view the harbor and the other side of the East River’s built environment, looking away from the magnificent Bridge, but no longer at its complete span.

Ms. Myer and the BBP Board have pulled off one of the greatest cons of all time—one that has tempted and beguiled swindlers for generations the world over: they found a Bridge and they sold it.

Judi Francis is 35-year resident of Brooklyn. She is the President of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, a 501 C park advocacy coalition comprised of 11 community associations and supported by the Sierra Club, NYC Park Advocates, and Project for Public Spaces. She has represented parks on her local community board for almost a decade, and has served on the Board of Directors of many cultural and civic organizations in Brooklyn.