Private towers fund Brooklyn waterfront public park

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

NEW YORK -- Brooklyn is taking the next step toward turning New York City's most populated borough into a 21st century residential enclave - with two private towers helping fund 85 acres of public parkland set against the Manhattan skyline, officials announced Tuesday.

Plans were unveiled for the last stretch of the sprawling waterfront community on the East River that already includes landscaped lawns, a promenade, playgrounds, restaurants and sports and performance venues.

Completing a pioneering model of private property that pays for public space, the so-called Pier 6 project at Brooklyn Bridge Park is a joint venture of RAL Development Services and Oliver's Realty Group.

One tower will be a 29-story, 192-unit condominium; the other a 14-story building housing more than 100 rental apartments designated as affordable at below-market rates.

Construction is to begin in about a year, pending approval of the plan by the nonprofit park board.

Board consent is likely, with park president Regina Myer saying Tuesday that the waterfront development has proved to be "an incredible success story because this was a section of Brooklyn that was totally cordoned off from the public, had no open space."

The developers note that the park and its facilities drew about 4.5 million visitors last summer, making it a popular destination despite real estate prices that are expected to approach those in Manhattan.

"This has provided an entire new perspective for the residents of Brooklyn where they can finally come and have a park celebrating the fantastic vistas of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge," said Myer.

The parkland is to be funded by payments replacing property taxes under a 94-year lease of the city land.

The towers are part of the settlement of a lawsuit protesting the inclusion of affordable housing that plaintiffs said would cut into park funding. Other area residents say the modern high-rises will blemish surrounding neighborhoods, like Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill with their stylish brownstones on quiet, tree-lined streets.

As a result, the number of apartments in the two towers has been cut to 339 from 430, and room is being made for a 75-seat pre-kindergarten center.

The revitalization of the 1.3-mile post-industrial waterfront already includes a building that once belonged to Jehovah's Witnesses and now houses luxury apartments called One Brooklyn Bridge Park, also an RAL project. Two Civil War-era structures and a tobacco warehouse are integrated into the waterfront park.

RAL's latest project "has something for everyone. We're addressing affordable housing needs, creating pre-K and community space, and providing critical funding for long-term park maintenance and operations," said Robert Levine, president and CEO.