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Park czar talks - Predicts major progress in 4 years

A mixture of optimism and skepticism greeted the new Brooklyn Bridge Park czar last week when she gave her first public report on the progress of the park’s construction.

Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (BBPDC), is charged with overseeing construction and development of the 85-acre waterfront park spanning from just north of the Manhattan Bridge to Atlantic Avenue.

“I am thrilled that we have been able to use all available funds to get a significant phase of park development underway, and in four years over two-thirds of the park will be complete,” Myer told a packed crowd at Polytechnic University’s Dibner Auditorium.

Myer called the meeting to break down the time frame of the $250 million Phase 1 of the park’s construction, which recently started with the demolition of the Purchase Building beneath the Brooklyn Bridge at 11 Water Street along with removal of sheds on several piers.

Myer said that the volleyball courts and playground around Pier 6 on the southern tip as well as the passive uplands around Pier 1 on the northern end would be completed by fall 2009.

Additional uplands connecting Piers 2, 3, 4 will be completed in spring 2011, and Pier 5 will be completed in spring 2012, said Myer.

Upon completing her short presentation, Myer opened the proceedings up to public questions, and was repeatedly asked about the funding of the park – both how much it will cost to complete the park and how much it will cost to maintain the park.

The park’s mandate is that once constructed, it must become self-sustainable. Thus the park’s General Project Plan includes about 8.2 acres or about 10 percent for private development to generate the estimated $15.2 million annual cost of operating and maintaining the park.

Myer repeatedly answered that she has not finalized the figures yet and vowed to get back to the community with numbers by the fall.

Following the meeting, several people surmised that perhaps the reason Piers 1 and 6 would be completed first is because those are the two areas that will see private development to support the park.

“While I applaud them [BBPDC] for taking down the pier sheds and preparing for the park, right now they are only preparing for landscaping and playground in two places that will be landscaped for condos,” said Judi Francis, a leading critic of how the park is being developed.

“We’re really preparing to cater to the needs of the real estate market and developers,” she added.

These private developments around Pier 6 include two residential buildings – 315 feet and 95 feet high – and the existing building at 360 Furman Street, which has been converted to luxury condominiums.

Two large buildings – one for condos and one for a hotel – are slated for construction near Pier 1.

Myer responded that construction around these piers was prioritized because they are the most accessible to the community.

“We want to build from the gateways and wonderful park entrances and usable park space closest to the community the park will serve,” said Myer.

“Pier 1 and Pier 6 represent almost 17 acres of open space and I know they will be very well used,” she added.

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