After 60 days on the table, the city’s offer to pay the former CitiStorage site’s owner $100 million for the final parcel of the long-promised Bushwick Inlet Park has officially expired. With Norman Brodsky’s default rejection of the offer (less than half the $250 million he was hoping for) questions emerge as to whether the Williamsburg waterfront park—which was first promised in 2005 as part of a rezoning deal that allowed for more high-rise developments in the sought-after neighborhood—will ever be completely finished.
After years of dragging its feet, the city initially offered the property’s owner, New York City real-estate developer Norman Brodsky, $100 million for the 11-acre parcel, which he purchased years prior for $10 million. The piece of land, once home to CitiStorage until a massive fire burned the warehouse into the ground in 2015, cuts through the middle of the proposed park extension. Brodsky rejected the city’s initial offer and put out a call for bids online in the form of a public auction, enacting his own July 20 deadline for offers, one that came two weeks earlier than the city’s own August 8 cutoff.
In an effort to pressure Brodsky to accept to offer, park advocates installed a countdown banner and collected signatures on a petition as the date neared. And during the final stretch, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park and their powerful supporters including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams upped the ante by organizing a sleep-in near the site.
The deal officially expired today, and since the offer was set in place, there’s been little news from the Brodsky camp anyway. The developer has declined to come back to the negotiating table since meeting very early on in the process, nor has he announced any winning bids or even possible takers. Property records show no signs any deed transfers for the lots in question. Nor has Brodsky recently commented on the matter in the press, despite multiple requests for interview from various publications, including Bedford + Bowery.
But Brodsky’s inaction hasn’t put a damper on park advocates’ cause.
At a rally outside City Hall this morning, about 100 people from the advocate group Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park and several community organizations like El Puente came out to show their support for the park, which residents say is needed to alleviate the congestion and overcrowding and bring much-needed green space to the area.
El Puente and Bushwick Inlet Park are among the groups that have long rallied behind Bushwick Inlet Park, but at least one new front has emerged in the struggle– supporters of a proposal known as Maker Park, (the group has ties to the advertising industry and Donald Trump’s son-in-law, the real-estate developer, Jared Kushner) have emerged in hopes of transforming Bushwick Inlet into an “adaptive reuse park.” Some ideas that have been pitched for Maker Park amenities include a walkable greenway, “viewing decks” installed atop old oil tanks, and an art gallery. Needless to say, the old timers haven’t been so keen on the new proposal. And yet, we’re a long way from discussing park specifics.
For now, the Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park are hoping that the city will continue to move forward with the park deal. For the group’s co-leader Stephen Chesler, the best option for the city and the community is pretty clear-cut. “Eminent domain: now is the time more than ever to do it,” he said. “We have a number of attorneys, and law professors, real estate people who have shown that there is a legal precedent that protects municipalities and taxpayers from exposure to inflated land values that are the result of a municipal project.”
Chesler added that eminent domain had been used successfully in the past, namely to acquire land needed to complete the Hudson Yard project, and he hopes that the city will use a similar strategy to get the final piece of this park completed. Echoing the sentiment of many park supporters, Chesler emphasized how important it is for the city to live up to their promises: “It’s about the public trust between citizens and it is really serious, so hopefully there’s a great appeal to Mayor de Blasio’s very humanistic side.”
However, city sources have said that eminent domain will not likely be used in this situation as it could significantly increase the cost to purchase the land, beyond what is financially responsible. It makes sense that the city would be a little gun-shy about the prospect of using eminent domain.
As the New York Times reported, when the city resorted to eminent domain law to make a $12 million offer on a piece of land owned by a truck rental company, a judge countered by raising the price to more than $90 million, which the city ended up paying. The city’s already spent $198 million on purchasing the first 17 acres of parkland and an additional $25.8 million on that land’s development– all told, the city’s shelled out around $225 million for the yet-to-be-completed park, a dollar amount that’s already significantly higher than the initial estimates for the park’s total cost which included Brodsky’s land, valued between $60 and $90 million.
A statement on the matter from the Mayor’s Office read: “The City remains open to discussions with the owner about ways to guarantee that the community needs are met […] A negotiated sale is the most expedient way to acquire this property, and the City’s offer is fair.”
While for the most part, Brodsky’s kept his cards close, the developer has voiced some of his opinions on his Twitter account, where he’s shared several thinly-veiled critiques of the city’s bargaining process. Just days before the city’s deadline, Brodsky opined that “deadlines are not always deadlines,” and accused the city of making a “low ball offer.” As of today, his last tweet acts as something of a sign off until his return the day after the city’s offer expires: “On plane taking off 30 min to Uganda back on 8/9 end of tweets until then.”