BBPC Hunts for Financing while Empire State Building Turns 80

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor The completion of the 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park might be delayed until 2013 for financial reasons. After $233 million spent and more than 20 years of planning, the park is far from being finished. And only [...]

The completion of the 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park might be delayed until 2013 for financial reasons. After $233 million spent and more than 20 years of planning, the park is far from being finished. And only one of the proposed in-park properties has been built at 360 Furman St., at the south end, and a former warehouse that used to be owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses was converted into a 438-unit condominium called One Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Three five-acre recreational fields at Pier 5 are scheduled to be opened in spring 2012, but according to Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. (BBPC), the development needs a strong financial model otherwise construction will be compromised. The development is expected to comprise six residential properties with 1,300 units spread along the 1.3-mile long waterfront park. Residents would have to pay a surcharge for the benefit of having the park at their doorstep.

BBPC has been charged with planning, building and maintaining the park. The nonprofit organization is working under a tight deadline trying to identify ways to gather an estimated $16 million a year that should cover the price of property maintenance. An additional $50 million could be granted by the city—which took control of the development project from the state in 2010—provided BBPC is able to come up with a self-sustained funding program.

Roy Sloane, president of the Cobble Hill Association, has been involved in planning. He says that housing could reduce the park’s potential and this consideration should not be ignored in favor of revenue generation. Sloane suggests, instead, that the Watchtower properties be redeveloped into residential units that would carry the same surcharge as the Brooklyn Bridge Park development. The Watchtower properties include 17 warehouse buildings that are owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses society and are situated in the park’s northern end. BBPC does not own those sites but is studying all possibilities, said Regina Myer.

Also making headlines in New York this week, the Empire State Building celebrated its 80th anniversary on Sunday. The construction for this 1,454-foot international symbol of innovation and architecture started in March 1930 and was completed only 410 days later, on May 1, 1931, at an amazing rate of four-and-a-half stories per week. Just a few months before its 80th birthday, the Empire State Building was renovated and the improvements have been designed with high-level sustainability in mind. New York’s landmark is now on track to receive LEED certification from the U.S. Buildings Council. The most important improvements include better-insulated windows and an upgraded air-conditioning system designed to lower energy consumption by an estimated 38 percent.