Discrepancy 101

Before beginning construction of Brooklyn Bridge Park the Empire State Development Corporation and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation were required to prepare a draft and then a final Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS and FEIS). Many pages in the FEIS are devoted to the acknowledgment of the special views that exist in the environs of the park and the surrounding area. The following can be found early on in the FEIS, chapter 1, page 6.

Landmarks, Gateways, and Connecting Views
A carefully constructed sequence of visibility, both in the approach to the water and through the park space, is intended to make certain that Brooklyn Bridge Park is accessible and comprehensible both from a distance and within its confines. The proposed plan builds this sequence through landmarks that can be seen from afar, gateways that offer long views into the park, and connecting views that open up the experience of the space. The efforts include measures to fully protect the extraordinary views currently available within the park and its surrounding environs. For instance, the design intends to protect views at the Fulton Ferry and Atlantic Avenue entries, as well as the view plane and the existing views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the harbor from the Promenade. New structures have been carefully placed so that important viewsheds and protected view planes around the site have been fully respected.

It goes without saying that many in the community were very concerned about the survival of the unique views that exist throughout the area. The above paragraph clearly says the ESDC and the BBPDC also understand the issue and would be sensitive to preserving the views while building the park and other buildings. It even goes further and says that “New structures have been carefully placed so that important viewsheds and protected view planes around the site have been fully protected.”

Clearly the addition of at least 3 additional stories that block the historic views of the complete Brooklyn Bridge roadway and suspension cabling from the Brooklyn Promenade have not been protected.

Even more to the point is the response to Comment 224 to the Draft EIS. The comment and response can be found in the FEIS, Chapter 24 pages 89 and 90.

Comment 224:
The ESC created photomontages based on the information in the DEIS and from the Sanborn Map Company. These utilize a digital CAD model and photographs of existing conditions. They assume a four foot parapet and penthouses of 25 feet. The montages show that the Pier 1 buildings will block more of the Brooklyn Bridge as viewed from the Promenade and the small building will break the Promenade’s Scenic View Plane and will encroach on views from the Promenade and will partially block the view of the Empire State Building. Some views to Lower Manhattan from the Promenade would be improved. The view of the Brooklyn skyline from the water would be altered, obscuring the Watchtower from view. Views would be created from the water to the Promenade and Brooklyn Heights. The view from John Street towards the Manhattan Bridge tower would be obscured. Views to Lower Manhattan would be partially obscured. The view to Lower Manhattan from Atlantic Avenue and Furman Street would be obscured. (ESC)

As described above, the drawings generated by ESC are flawed and do not accurately depict the proposed building envelopes. Any required parapet and mechanical equipment would be included in the proposed building envelope. The proposed hotel-residential development on Pier 1 would be approximately one story shorter than the buildings depicted in the ESC visual simulations. The portion of the development within the protected view plane would be 55 feet high; the portion outside the view plane would be 100 feet high, which is approximately the height of the existing Cold Storage Warehouse buildings.

The response unambiguously states that any required parapet and mechanical equipment would be inside the building envelope and that the hotel building would be limited to 100 feet. The height of the hotel structure is currently estimated to be at least 130 feet.

Construction needs to be halted now pending a full review of the current construction, a remediation plan developed to bring the hotel building height into compliance with the FEIS and a review of the plans for the residential structure to insure that there are no impairments from all other important viewsheds.

The complete Final Environmental Impact Statement for Brooklyn Bridge Park can be found here.

To show your support to Save The View Now please click here to sign the online petition.


Creative Accounting 101

The developer of the Pierhouse is ignoring the building height restriction codified in the 2005 General Park Plan and Final Economic Impact Statement (FEIS) created for the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Before the Pierhouse construction started the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp ordered the demolition of the National Cold Storage Warehouse (CSW) that stood roughly in the same location. The building height restriction written into the Park plan was the result of 20 years of analysis and discussion designed to improve the views available of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Promenade relative to the now demolished CSW. That stipulation has been all but forgotten by the powers to be at the Brooklyn Bride Park Corp.

In a letter to the Brooklyn Heights Association dated Nov 7, the BBPC tries to explain why a building that was supposed to have a total height of no more than 100’ when measured from the ground and now stands at a total height of 136.5’ over the same spot is really only 100’ tall. We do not buy the mathematics.**


The BBPC seems to be completely oblivious that the purpose of the height restriction was not some esoteric concept but something as simple as a view. Somehow they think that blocking a view to make room for mechanical equipment is more important than to follow the words that they wrote in the FEIS where they state:

The efforts include measures to fully protect the extraordinary views currently available within the park and its surrounding environs.

Maybe the BBPC thinks it is more important for the equipment to have a good view than the hundreds of thousands who visit the Promenade annually, or maybe they think we all have x-ray vision?

The BBPC is also ignoring the fact that they responded to a comment asking specifically about this issue with the following statement:

…Any required parapet and mechanical equipment would be included in the proposed building envelope…

A mistake may have been made when they allowed Toll Brothers to exclude the parapet ands mechanical equipment from the building height calculations. Hey, everyone makes mistake, however, the only thing to do when you make a mistake is fix it, not ignore it.

We are calling on Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo to:

  • immediately call a halt to the construction of the Pierhouse complex
  • develop a restoration plan to restore the Pierhouse hotel building on parcel A to the 100 foot height limitation “inclusive” of mechanicals with no adjustments as per the original plan.
  • confirm that the Pierhouse residential building on parcel B will not pierce the 55’ limit stated in the FEIS and will be in compliance with the Brooklyn Promenade Scenic View Plane regulation.
  • form a community oversight committee with the power to approve or disapprove any future modification

**The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. makes the point that the bulkheads only cover 15% of the building roof area. However, the bulkheads are placed across the width of Parcel A thereby substantially obstructing the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Promenade. The percentage of the building that the bulkhead covers is largely irrelevant as it is the impact of these bulkheads across the roof line that is of utmost concern.



Height of BBP’s Pierhouse Hotel: What Exactly IS the Deal?

To understand the disputed height restrictions of the Pierhouse Hotel structure in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1, a number of variables need clarification, including the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation’s (BBPC’s) adherence to its own agreement, how the NYC Department of Planning Brooklyn Heights Scenic View District figures into the discussion, and the the impact of Hurricane Sandy on New York City waterfront construction requirements. What is not in dispute is that in the fall of 2005, Otis Pratt Pearsall—the well-respected preservationist from Brooklyn Heights—representeing the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) met with Matthew Urbanski, project manager for Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and Wendy Leventer, President of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, as BBPC was then called. In a recent email to Mr. Urbanski obtained by BHB, Mr. Pearsall states the meeting’s purpose was to discuss “limiting the height of the hotel proposed for Pier 1 so as to assure an uninterrupted view of the Brooklyn Bridge roadbed from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.” According to a 33 page BHA document dated November 2, 2005, which was meant to codify the discussions early that year, Mr. Pearsall stressed: “Clearly the hotel (including any mechanicals visible from the Promenade) should not in any circumstance be permitted to exceed the 98 foot roofline of the [National] Cold Storage buildings [which occupied the approximate space where the Pierhouse is being built] without the bulkheads.” (See photo below, from Bridge and Tunnel Club, via Brownstoner, of the warehouse building before its demolition, and compare with photo at top, by Claude Scales, of Pierhouse structure taken from approximately the same position on the Promenade–between Pierrepont and Clark streets–today.) This is where BBPC institutional memory comes into question. Regina Myer replaced Ms. Leventer as President in December 2007. Presumably, a transfer of responsibilities included a commitment to the carefully negotiated deal about the Pierhouse structure, especially because the importance of Brooklyn Bridge views from the Promenade was clearly documented on page 14 of BBP’s RFP for Hotel and Residential Development at Pier 1 from 2011. “Respondents must comply with the requirements of Article X, Chapter 2: Special Purpose Districts, Special Scenic View District establishing the SV-1 Brooklyn Heights Scenic View District. These requirements seek to protect the waterfront views of the Lower Manhattan skyline, Governors Island, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.” Given that the Pierhouse Hotel as now built is an estimated 130 feet high—including three stories of visible mechanical equipment as well as an outdoor bar—Marvel Architects, designers of the Pierhouse complex, did not honor the 2005 agreement which is also documented in BBP’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), Chapter 24 “Response to Comments on the DEIS.” [Editor’s Note: Marvel Architects did not respond to repeated requests for information regarding the Pierhouse Hotel structure].According to the aforementioned NYC Zoning Resolution, Article X on Special Purpose Districts, the Brooklyn Heights Scenic View District is “…to be protected pursuant to the provisions of this Section includ[ing]: the panoramic view of the lower Manhattan skyline which includes such landmarks as the Brooklyn Bridge archway, the South Street Seaport, the Whitehall Ferry Terminal, and the vistas of the Statue of Liberty and Governor’s Island.” The purposes of this district, specifically designated as SV-1, are: “(a) to preserve, protect and prevent obstruction of outstanding scenic views as seen from a mapped public park or an esplanade or a mapped public place directly accessible to the public; and (b) to promote the most desirable use of land and direction of building development, to assure the maintenance and enhancement of the aesthetic aspects of scenic views, to conserve the value of land and buildings and to protect the City’s tax revenues.” SV-1 might be invoked because the Pierhouse Hotel’s height clearly obstructs the Promenade view of what’s called the “necklace” of the Brooklyn Bridge – its elegant and much admired cable structure. But in his email to BHB, Mr. Pearsall disputed this interpretation. “There is no Scenic View Plane for the Brooklyn Bridge,” wrote Mr. Pearsall. “There is the SV-1 Brooklyn Heights Scenic View District…. It barely touches the Bridge. It has no application to the tall part of the hotel, which is in the unprotected triangle north of the View Plane.” Mr. Pearsall’s insistence that SV-1 is not the ruling authority in this matter underscores his belief that the only binding height restriction on the Pierhouse Hotel is the 2005 agreement. “The deal at issue was between the BHA, Van Valkenburgh Associates, and the Park Corporation,” Pearsall said to BHB. “What documentation it required was up to the Park Corporation. I surmise that the Park Corporation was responsible for controlling the height of the hotel, although this process all took place after my involvement.” According to Belinda Cape, BBP Vice President for Strategic Partnerships, the actual Pierhouse Hotel height was driven by building conditions imposed as a result of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. “After Hurricane Sandy,” Ms. Cape said in an email yesterday to BHB, “the need to place additional back-up mechanical equipment, as required by NYC building code, did increase the size of the bulkhead to about 3 stories in one isolated location, which is permitted under NYC zoning.” A conversation with the NYC Department of City Planning’s Press Office determined that Brooklyn Bridge Park building heights are not subject to City Planning approval, but are solely governed by documents specifically drafted by the BBPC and approved by the state, including the BBPC’s FEIS. In her email Ms. Cape added that “Throughout the design process – inclusive of post-Sandy alterations – BBP kept the community and BHA fully apprised.” Last Wednesday in a statement posted on its website, the BHA clearly stated that it was not informed about the Pierhouse height. “We are saddened and disappointed that the new buildings seriously compromise that iconic, world class view [of the Brooklyn Bridge]. We have communicated this to the BBPC and we request that its leadership and the developers of this project take any steps possible to mitigate the Pierhouse development’s visual obstruction of the Bridge.” As Mr. Pearsall stated so succinctly in 2005, “Please remember, there are views and then there are views. This is one of the world’s best. Let’s not nibble at it.”