Nearly a year after a seven-alarm fire ravaged the CitiStorage building in Williamsburg, the fate of the hotly contested land remains in limbo. On Sunday, the fire’s anniversary, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park will gather to once again call on the city to turn the controversial plot into parkland.
“The call to action is really to make De Blasio finish, and acquire that last piece of property, so that sometime in the future we can have that 27-acre park that the community really needs and was promised,” said Jens Rasmussen, speaking for Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park.
In 2005, the Bloomberg administration pledged to acquire the 8-acre plot so that it could become parkland along with the neighboring Bushwick Inlet Park soccer fields. Years later, the city said it couldn’t afford to acquire the property, which owner Norm Brodsky’s real estate agents have valued at over $300 million.
Rasmussen said the city’s claims are “bullshit,” since “there’s a huge budget surplus right now” and “one of the surpluses is specifically for capital investment.”
“Frankly, even without the surpluses, the actual legitimate purchase price – not this inflated $500 million [sic] bullshit that Norm Brodsky has been trying to float, doing his best to try to create the de facto value in the press – the actual purchase price is a drop in the bucket of this city’s annual budget and well worth the money and the financial benefits that it would bring to the businesses in the area, and really all of the businesses in all of the city,” Rasmussen told us.
“Really it’s a matter of not wanting to spend it, and frankly we don’t understand that,” he added.
Rasmussen and Brodsky disagree on the value of the property, but they both believe the real issue at hand is whether or not the city is going to claim eminent domain.
“The issue is, is the city going to take it or not,” said Brodsky. “They keep saying they’re not.”
The developer added that he gets bids on the property “almost every day,” and while he hasn’t entertained any of them yet, “sooner than later [he] will make a decision on what [he] has to do.”
Crain’s reported that Midtown Equities and East End Capital secured an option to purchase the land in May, and that The Related Cos. was in talks to invest in December. But days after the Crain’s update in December, a spokesperson for De Blasio stated the administration would not accept a residential rezoning of Brodsky’s property without the community’s support. Still, nothing is stopping Brodsky or a buyer from using the property to build an as-of-right commercial development.
“The community has been put in a very precarious position,” Brodsky said. “I have not looked yet to sell the property to someone who would develop it as-of-right. Most of the people who came to me thought that they could get it rezoned into some sort of housing, and obviously the mayor has taken a position that, without the community’s approval, he’s never going to do that.”
“It really is a problem,” Brodsky added. “If the city does not take it by eminent domain or make a deal or something like that, the community, unfairly, is going to get the short end of the stick.”
The press conference will take place at the corner of N. 11th Street and Kent Avenue, at noon. In the case of rain it will be held at Greenpoint Beer & Ale at the corner of N. 15th Street and Franklin Street.
Update, Feb. 3: The Parks Department has provided this statement about the current state of affairs: “Bushwick Inlet Park is a large and complex undertaking, and the City has been proceeding with the phased acquisition, remediation and development of this important open space. Under the previous administration the City completed the acquisition of the first two Bushwick Inlet parcels. Since the beginning of the de Blasio administration, we acquired a third parcel, the Motiva site. Later this winter we expect to complete the acquisition of a fourth parcel, the Bayside site. We are now focusing on remediating and developing these sites so that we can provide public access to additional completed portions of Bushwick Inlet Park. While extremely unfortunate, the CitiStorage fire provides an opportunity for advancement of environmental due diligence and environmental assessment work on the CitiStorage parcel. With the building gone, the ground surface is newly available to allow subsurface investigation.”