Squadron Eyes City Takeover of Brooklyn Bridge Park, with Conditions

For at least two years, the Bloomberg administration has been pushing–first privately, then publicly–to take over the governance of Brooklyn Bridge Park, offering to put more money into the new East River parkland in exchange for more control from the state.

Now, the move has earned the tentative support of the local state senator, Daniel Squadron, a former aide to Senator Chuck Schumer who rose to office in part by criticizing a plan that put residential and commercial development on the exterior of the new park, set below Brooklyn Heights.

Mr. Squadron and the city are expected at a meeting on Monday night to present their plan, which would also need support from the Paterson administration.

The city is prepared to put in $55 million to the budget of the $350 million project, which is $120 million short. The first phase is currently under way, establishing a new park on a pier with a large former warehouse near the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. Mr. Squadron said he would want the city to take over if it can “allow for meaningful discussions of alternatives to housing.”

What does that mean exactly?

Mr. Squadron said he wants the city to agree to hold off on bidding out the development sites, and, if and when the sites are bid out, the bidding would require approval from the Public Authorities Control Board, a board controlled by the governor and the leaders of both the state Senate and Assembly. This would seem to give Mr. Squadron and legislators another bite at the apple, potentially allowing them to block any residential development.

Under the current financing structure, development is needed to fund maintenance of the park (an estimated $16 million annually), a structure that has sparked criticism. Mr. Squadron has proposed something resembling a tax increment financing structure, which would take any added tax revenue created by the park (which would theoretically boost values of nearby properties) and use that to fund maintenance.

The city’s contribution comes at a time when budgets are tight, particularly the capital budget, which would be the source of these funds. Previously, the mayor has said that added money for Brooklyn Bridge Park would come from a fund meant to expand the Javits Center.

ebrown@observer.com Squadron Eyes City Takeover of Brooklyn Bridge Park, with Conditions