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Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. Rebuts Foes

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. doubled down Tuesday in defense of a controversial residential development at Pier 6 on the Brooklyn Heights waterfront that it contends is needed to keep the park’s long-term finances in order.

In the latest round of a heated back and forth, the corporation rebutted an alternative financing model recently advanced by opponents who contend the new development is not needed.

The corporation is in charge of building and maintaining the 1.3-mile waterfront park stretching from the Manhattan Bridge in Dumbo to Atlantic Avenue at the Columbia Street waterfront district, near where the Pier 6 site is located. And while it has accepted public dollars for capital construction, the body is in charge of funding its own maintenance and operations, largely through real estate developments—which has been the source of the controversy.

“We are a not-for-profit, and we don’t borrow money,” said Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Corp. “Without this new construction, we would go broke in 10 to 15 years.”

Yet a group called People for Green Space Foundation has argued that the corporation can live without the payments that would come from the eventual development of the Pier 6 sites, which according to current plans would result in 31- and 15-story towers. People for Green Space, which recently won a court injunction that would stop the corporation from selecting a Pier 6 developer, argues that the amount of park space should be maximized and development minimized.

Several of the group’s members live in multimillion-dollar apartments nearby, and stand to have their views blocked by the new construction, according to the park corporation.

On Nov. 7, People for Green Space presented a plan showing the park would have enough money by relying on the real estate projects already in the works. On Tuesday, the corporation responded to the report.

“The critics who have questioned our modelling don’t appear to have a background in park management, maritime infrastructure or public finance,” said Ms. Myer. “And we’ve found they have been willing to accept a good deal more risk than what a quasi-governmental organization would take on to run a park.”

Specifically, the corporation charged that the opposition group’s financial analysis made several errors:

First, it did not accurately take inflation into account and predicted revenue would grow at a much higher rate than expenses, and thus estimated the corporation would end up with more cash on hand, the corporation said.

Secondly, the report assumed that the corporation could sell sponsorship rights and raise private money to the tune of $30 million, a prediction Ms. Myer said was too speculative and has not worked in the past for other institutions.

Lastly, the corporation contends that the Nov. 7 report underestimated the amount of capital reserves needed to run the park.

“We feel like our model is much more robust,” said People for Green Space’s Lori Schomp. “And if the park truly does need the money, the burden is on them to prove it—and we don’t feel they have done that yet.”

People for Green Space argues that the corporation’s revenue from property tax values, which it collects as payments in lieu of taxes, will increase sufficiently to cover its costs when tax breaks expire for existing properties, and has called on the corporation to make its longer term financial model public. That revenue will go up further as property values increase. Ms. Myer said that formulation was speculative.

Some of the opponents’ sentiments have been shared by local elected officials, who have also opposed the Pier 6 residential project. However, the de Blasio administration has come out in support of the project, which is now required to set aside 30% of the units for affordable housing.

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