April 15, 2014

Dear Mayor de Blasio,

Willowtown is a wonderful and beloved neighborhood in the southwest corner of Brooklyn Heights extending from Joralemon Street to Atlantic Avenue between Hicks and Furman streets.  Our neighborhood is just across the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway from the condominium known as One Brooklyn Bridge Park.  This condo, as you no doubt know, is in the park and the first to be plugged into its maintenance funding scheme.

Ever since being formed in 1953 the Willowtown Association has addressed and sought solutions to preservation and current issues.  Among them is the development of the ever more popular Brooklyn Bridge Park literally at our doorsteps.  Our association has long pushed for a park maintenance scheme that does not rely entirely on housing in the park for its funding.  Thus we want to add our support to the April 7 request made by five of our elected officials for a new discussion of possible funding alternatives vis-a-vis the final two designated development sites at Pier 6 in the park.

We realize and accept that the park must be self-sustaining.  We know that the Pier 6 sites are expected to provide a meaningful percentage of the needed funding.  As the Willowtown Association’s representative, I have served on the board of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council since its beginning in October 2010 and chair the CAC Committee on Design and Construction.  Thus I am aware that the Request-for-Proposals process for these sites has begun and of its timetable and the CAC’s expected role.  As a matter of fairness to us as well as the park’s staff and our not wasting time, I urge prompt action on the discussion of funding alternatives called for by our officials.  Certainly you and your appointee as chair of the BBP Corp. board, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, should see that this happens. 

The other day I stood at the corner of Columbia Place and State Street in Willowtown and looked toward the One Brooklyn Bridge Park building that has marked this view for many years previously as a waterfront facility of the New York Dock Company.  To think of 31- and 15-story towers rising there, blocking light and creating even more of a wall, came across as surreal.  Hopefully this will not happen.

If the conclusion of the new discussion is that, yes, construction of housing is to go forward on the Pier 6 sites, may it be reduced to a scale that is appropriate to the surroundings.  And may creative minds come up with other ways to make up the difference in the needed maintenance funding. 

A CAC member regularly reminds us that Brooklyn Bridge Park is forever.  Personally I feel honored to have a small role in making it the best park possible.  This task is truly a sacred trust.

Yours Sincerely,

Ben Bankson, President