Why Did NY State Parks Claim That Tobacco Warehouse is Not Used for Public Recreation?


Tobacco Warehouse & Brooklyn Bridge

(Photo by Carolyn Weiss)

Something doesn’t seem right around the Empire Fulton Ferry State Park. In November 2010, according to a The Albany Government Law Review paper, the proposed placement of Jane’s Carousel in the Empire Fulton Ferry Park contradicts the purposes of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant. And yesterday, a new paper, by the same author, Mr. Stengel, says that the Tobacco Warehouse in the same park was excluded from the LWCF seven years after the grant was awarded in 2001 based on false information.

According to the paper:

In 2001, National Parks Service (“NPS”) approved a LWCF grant in the amount of $275,525 for the Cove Area Improvement in Empire Fulton Ferry Park (EFFP).[7] Unexplored in my previous post is the original boundary map for the LWCF grant, which incorporated all of EFFP including the Empire Stores and Tobacco Warehouse.[8] The map detailed the area covered by the grant, which, like all LWCF projects, included an assurance in perpetuity that the land and real property contained within will not be converted.[9] However, on November 5, 2008, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (“OPRHP”) wrote to NPS to request that the park’s boundary map be amended.[10] The OPRHP letter stated: “These former warehouse buildings [the Empire Stores and Tobacco Warehouse] are not suitable for nor used by the public for outdoor recreational opportunities in the park.”[11]

NPS replied to OPRHP about one month later, acknowledging that the Empire Stores and Tobacco Warehouse were in the original project boundary map, but allowed the amendment excluding the structures.[12] Furthermore, NPS concluded that “the LWCF Program does not provide financial assistance for existing or proposed indoor recreation facilities and these former warehouses are not suitable for recreational use by the public, the pre-existing warehouses should have been excluded.”[13] NPS also acknowledged that grant maps are final, except for “conversion or significant error.”[14]

If we read this correctly, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) requested the park boundary be amended in 2008 (PDF of letter of request) knowing that events were held at the Tobacco Warehouse (such as the widely publicized Macbeth in June 2008 by NY Times and by us). By amending the boundary, it allows for the property contained within the park to be altered. It is a fact that the Tobacco Warehouse hosted public outdoor recreation events. It is a fact that State Parks claimed that Tobacco Warehouse did not host outdoor public events. The question is, what motives did OPRHP have to amend the LWCF grant boundaries?

Mr. Stengel’s conclusion, while not stating who or what the motives were, is there’s something odd going on:

There exists, dare I say, a veritable warehouse full of evidence that the roofless, four-walled brick structure was host to public outdoor recreation during the time the LWCF grant was awarded in 2001 until the map amendment in late 2008. The reason OPRHP would claim otherwise, whether intentionally or by mistake for failure to investigate, is a mystery. Potential violations of criminal law depend on what agents or employees of OPRHP knew at the time of the Tobacco Warehouse map amendment request was made to NPS.

Brooklyn Bridge 125 - 012

(Photo by eurythman)

{Does the Carousel in Empire Fulton Ferry State Park Contradict State Law?, 04Nov2010}
{City Envisions Full-Fledged Re-use for Tobacco Warehouse, 31Aug2010, Brooklyn Eagle}
{Tobacco Warehouse, 17Apr2009}

Various Events at Tobacco Warehouse:
{Burger Bash, 13Oct2009}
{Vendy Awards at Tobacco Warehouse, 17Oct2008}
{ISSUE Project Room’s Music at the Bridge Event at Tobacco Warehouse, 29Jul2008}
{Music At The Bridge at Tobacco Warehouse, 21Jul2008}
{Macbeth, 17Jun2008}
{Brooklyn Pigfest 2008 at Tobacco Warehouse, 30May2008}
{American Cancer Society Event at Tobacco Warehouse, 24Apr2008}
{Events: “82 Decibels” at Tobacco Warehouse, 16Sept2006}