GL Guest Analysis: Will Ends Justify Means at Slope's Boymelpark?
What is up at the Terrapin Playground, the section of J.J. Byrne Park behind the Novo Park Slope that developer Shaya Boymelgreen is renovating? The developer promised to spend millions of dollars renovating the playground in exchange for the Parks Dept. letting him use the large playground as a staging area while workers constructed his condo. Work on the playground was supposed to be complete in early May. Judging from the lack of progress on the site, that now seems unlikely in the extreme. The playground, in fact, was originally supposed to be finished last summer, then last fall, then this spring. Around this time last year, Community Board 6 recommended that the Department of Buildings deny the developer a certificate of occupancy for the Novo until work on Terrapin was complete. Work on the playground did eventually start, but after about three years of construction, no one has yet moved into the Novo, and sales for the building are not doing extraordinarily well. In fact, there was recently a round of price chops on the property.
The price chops bring an obvious question to mind: What pressing motivation--aside from outcry c/o some angry contract-holders--do Boymelgreen and his partners have to get a C of O for a building that still has a lot of unsold units? And, if there's no great motivation to get a C of O, what's the rush to complete Terrapin? Putting aside the current delays, however, it's probably reasonable to assume that Boymelgreen will keep his word, and that the new Terrapin--with eight new handball courts, two new basketball courts, a skate area, and a dog run area--will eventually see the light of day in a month or six months or two years. At that point, and for years to come, it just might happen that a private developer's very, very slow progress on city land will be mostly forgotten. The playground will be a playground, and the public will use it. Does public-private development become justifiable at that point in the future? In theory, public-private partnerships can have great benefits for all involved. But, the sticking point right now is not public-private development in theory. The issue is the reality of developers that many people in the community believe have shown a lax sense of scruples. Would we ever expect Mr. Boymelgreen and his partners to build a visionary playground, like the one planned at Burling Slip? Unlikely. Would we expect him to borrow a public space for several years and see a lack of returns on that loan for far too long? Sadly, yes.
(Max Casey lives near J.J. Byrne Park and is looking forward to using the new Terrapin Playground, particularly the dog run.)