Eminent Domania in the Burg and Greenpoint
The fascinating issue of the major expansion of waterfront parkland the city proposes in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, stretching from the northern end of East River State Park to north of the Bushwick Inlet, has been a sleeper. The city recently acquired major parcels for the planned 28-acre park via eminent domain and is now negotiating payments. The park is years off in the future, though some interesting plans and renderings have been released. The site, overall, may be one of the most horrendously polluted in North Brooklyn. There was a large Manufactured Gas Plant on part of the land, which left behind a significant amount of underground toxins whose full reach has never been completely mapped. (There are stories, however, that when CitiStorage was doing some test drilling on its land, it turned up some very interesting soil samples, some of which were stored in a refrigerator on site and shown to select visitors to illustrate the nature of what is underground on the waterfront.) One of the most recent tenants of part of the land is Bayside Fuel and an earlier occupant was the Astral Oil Refinery. The refinery suffered a major explosion and spilled significant amounts of oil. The full extent of the spill or its location underground are unknown.
We say that in order to make the point that any park would require a massive cleanup effort in order to render the land safe. We digress, however. The fascinating issue is that the city would take some of the land via eminent domain or, at least, under the threat of eminent domain. Some of the landowners are saying they are being low-balled and that the city is not offering prices that reflect the value of the land if it were sold for, say, luxury high rise development. (The land isn't zoned for that use. It is zoned for heavy manufacturing or can be used as park land.)
In any case, for an interesting take on the issue, we suggest reading an article that appeared in the Real Deal early this month as well as a post strongly opposing the use of eminent domain on Brownstoner and one supporting its use on Brooklyn 11211. Gothamist, meanwhile, puts the argument in the context of all the uses of eminent domain underway around the city--and there are many. All make valid points, although, in this case, we think we would come down on the side of eminent domain, given that there is a very strong public good that would come from developing a big, new park around the Bushwick Inlet. To that we would add that would have hoped the city come to equitable arrangements with the landowners without resorting to this blunt force instrument of questionable ethics and legality. For the record, we take an especially dim view of the plans of one of the landowners, TransGas, to build a large power plant on some of the land.
One issue that needs to be resolved in an ethical way is that of the Monitor Museum, which is fighting relocation. The waterfront park was a key part of the rezoning that allowed the highrises that are now going up in significant numbers along Kent Avenue. We hope to see quick progress on the park, but a process that is ethical and fair to all parties.
City takes Williamsburg waterfront properties for park [Real Deal]
Eminent Domain Spreads to Williamsburg Waterfront [Brownstoner]
Eminent Domain Abuse [Brooklyn 11211]
Eminent Domain Lives...In Williamsburg [Gothamist]