Friday, October 19, 2007

Eminent Domania in the Burg and Greenpoint

Bushwick Inlet Park

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.

Links:
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]

Labels: ,

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A park is great, but how do you think you'll get your electricity? Should we put the big power plant in some less gentrified neighborhood, so the rich hipsters won't have to see it? I'm sure some poor neighborhood won't mind as much. Maybe we could put the power plant in place of the planned waterfront park in Sunset Park (oh yeah, too close to park slope, maybe more white people will move in soon). Or we can bulldoze some more trees upstate to put the power plant on fresh land there, then build a bunch of power lines through peoples' yards to transport the power here, sometimes using eminent domain, even though that's way less effciant and more prone to black outs, and we can just forget about the use of more clean steam power from the plant and try to heat those big manhattan skyscrapers with a dirtier form of energy ... so hipsters will have yet another park in williamsburg in addition to the new one the state built, a waterfront promenade and mc carren park. there are so many reasons why it's more environmentally responsible to put a power plant there, and every single one of us needs it. but i'm sure we can find a black neighborhood somewhere that can take it, as long as we don't care about the steam power for manhattan.

8:39 AM  
Blogger gary said...

Bob, you've got the right stance on this.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Red Hook said...

In a larger context, it actually reeks of cronyism. Let me explain da Bloomberg way.

"Friend" developers: Hey Mikey, we wanna build condos and call it a park!

Dan Doctoroff (Deputy Mayor): Cool.

"Friend" developers: We want to build the most massively dense luxury residential development in the U.S. ever and we'll call it affordable housing.

Dan Doctoroff: Sweet.

"Friend" developers: We want to put a giant IKEA on valuable waterfront property.

Dan Doctoroff: Yes, yes. Fine, fine.

NON-Friend Developers: We want to develop Coney...

Dan Doctoroff: FUCK YOU.

NON-Friend Developers: But we...

Dan Doctoroff: Hello, can't hear you. Nah nah nah. Can't hear you.

CITIZENS: Hey, we don't like you putting condos in our parks and blah blah blah, Atlantic Yards, IKEA.

Bloomberg: I'm good. I'm the good mayor. Dan, make some parks.

Dan Doctoroff: Hello, non-friend developers?

Non-Friend Developers: Yes, hi! It's so good to hear from -

Dan Doctoroff: We're taking your land and making good stuff.

Non-Friend Developers: Hey, wait, but -

Dan Doctoroff: [click]

Bloomberg: I'm so good. I'm the good mayor.

The End (?)

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

since Williamsburg has been known for decades as one of the most toxic area in the US, why has there NOT BEEN an extensive mapping and study of the extent of the Astral Oil Spill along with the many other historical pollutant buinesses ops that were rampant in Williamsburg over past 150 years BEFORE the City and State decided to sell it to Manhattan wanna be condo owners as the next hot nabe? Is the City and State ready to pay the current residents PLUS the new buyers for the health damages the City, State and EPA have allowed?


---------------------
"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."

9:31 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home