The 11-acre parcel of land where the now-incinerated CitiStorage warehouse once stood is worth over half a billion dollars, according to Norm Brodsky, the site’s owner. But calls for the city to acquire the property and turn it into a park haven’t ceased.
In 2006, the Bloomberg administration bought land adjacent to the CitiStorage property for almost $94 million. “My piece is twice as big,” said Brodsky, “and in 2006 was valued at $200 million.” Since then, he says, property prices have tripled.
When the CitiStorage warehouse went up in flames in January, talk of Bloomberg’s plan to convert the site into a park was resurrected: public figures have spoken out, and residents continue to urge the city to acquire the land, before it is bought buy a private developer for residential rezoning. Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, a community-based advocacy group, has held rallies urging the city to fulfill the broken promise of the Bloomberg administration. Their next demonstration is scheduled on May 16, 10am to 1pm, at North 12th Street and Kent Ave. Second graders from Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Arbor School plan to grow plants on the site and sell them to raise funds for the park. They’ll meet on Friday, April 24, to tour the proposed site, much of which stands behind barbed wire fencing.
“We believe it is the responsibility of the city to acquire that land,” said a spokesperson for North Brooklyn Councilman Stephen Levin.
If the land really is worth half a billion dollars or more, the likelihood of that outcome seems low. “The community is misinformed,” said Brodsky. “Do you really think the city’s going to buy the land for $500 million?”
Brodsky’s matter-of-fact tone does not convey that he too would like to see a park built on the waterfront. “I would love if the city took the land,” he said. “But I share the land with partners, and there are mortgages too – it’s not as simple as people think.” The best solution, he believes, would be for the city to buy as much of the site as it can, building a park around whatever ends up on the remainder of the land — a compromise.
Jens Rasmussen, an organizer for Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, said Brodsky is basing the half a billion figure on the assumption that the property would be rezoned for residential use. Commercial property has a lower value. “We do not share Norm’s value of that property,” said Rasmussen.
The land on and around the CitiStorage site has never been rezoned, but it was remapped as park space in 2005. This designation, which allows the city to acquire the land for park space if it can, is not to be confused with rezoning.
Today, almost the entire North Brooklyn waterfront has been rezoned, allowing for the construction of many high-rise apartment buildings. The tall apartment blocks have contributed greatly to population density in the Williamsburg and Greenpoint areas — two of the most crammed neighborhoods in Brooklyn. If the promised park land is rezoned for residential use, more huge buildings will be on the way.
“To get the absolute top dollar, you would rezone as residential,” said Rasmussen. “But if Norm — if anyone — thinks that property will ever be rezoned, they have another thing coming.” Asked what he believes will happen if the site is rezoned, Rasmussen responded, “I would expect civil disobedience. There is no way the community will stand for that.”