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Brooklyn Bridge View Blocked By Development, Community Revolts

01.26.15 Rhett Jones

The Brooklyn Bridge Park is exactly where one would expect to get an extraordinary view of the world’s most famous suspension bridge but a new development has intruded and some say is violating an agreement that was specifically designed to protect the sites. Now community members want the upper portion of the building removed.

Otis Pratt Pearsall, who formerly served on the Brooklyn Heights Association’s advisory committee, says that he came to an agreement with the developers of the complex, which is called Pierhouse, back in 2005 that would prevent the obstruction of the iconic lookout on the bridge and city behind it. He says that they agreed to a 100-foot cap which included mechanical structures like boilers, cooling systems and generators. Now, a 30-foot tall mechanical structure sits atop the Pierhouse, blocking the bridges roadway and almost completely obscuring the Chrysler Building behind it.

According to the New York Times:

[In 2005], a draft environmental impact statement related to the Pierhouse was released; it called for a 110-foot structure. The complex was to replace a warehouse located on the spot, which would be torn down in 2010. Under an unusual model, the cost of maintaining and operating the park is to be borne by the private developments along the park’s perimeter, including Pierhouse, a three-building complex where a penthouse apartment recently went into contract for $11 million.

Concerned about the possible effect on the view, Mr. Pearsall said he worked out an agreement with the park’s landscape architect, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, acting on behalf of the park corporation, that mechanical structures were to be counted against that cap. Mr. Pearsall has email from Mr. Van Valkenburgh’s office memorializing the agreement.

The final environmental impact statement for the project, which was completed in 2005, confirms the height limit and, in the comment and response section, says the mechanical structures are included. But the general project plan, which came out the next year and is supposed to reflect the impact statement, mentions only the 100-foot cap.

A group called Save the View Now has gathered 4,000 signatures on a petition that demands the upper portion of the offending building be removed. The group is considering filing a lawsuit.

Pearsall left the advisory committee in 2011 and subsequent committee members claim they were unaware of the deal. Carolyn Ziegler, chairwoman of the Brooklyn Heights Association’s parks committee believes that the height limit should still be honored. She tells the Times:

“They are trying to deflect blame by pointing to the Community Advisory Council,” said Ms. Ziegler of the Brooklyn Heights Association. “But the fact that we were not the best policemen in the world does not absolve them from living up to their agreement.”

(Photo: Sedef Piker)