“We are seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the transfer of the Tobacco Warehouse, designated as part of parkland since 2000, to private hands. This primary action is in Federal Court, against the Natonal Park Service (NPS). We also filed a secondary action in NY State Supreme Court against the New York State Office of Parks (NYSOP) and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) requesting a court order to prevent officials from providing false and misleading information to the National Park Service.”
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). 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. 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. 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. 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.”
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. 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.” NPS also acknowledged that grant maps are final, except for “conversion or significant error.”
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.
In an article on The Albany Government Law Review Fireplace blog by Andrew Stengel, they argue that 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. Jane’s Carousel is loved by many (for example see Brooklyn Paper article), but some also believe a carousel in the park will bring unwanted noise, pollution, and traffic to the area (prior post on this). We’ll quote a piece of Mr. Stengel’s conclusions here:
“The planned carousel for Empire Fulton Ferry Park likely constitutes a conversion—and thus requires approval from the Regional Director of the National Parks Service—because it contradicts the purposes of the grant and it is a non-outdoor recreational use in the LWCF project area. The purpose of the LWCF grant is to protect the waterfront which is “one of the few places on the New York City waterfront that gives visitors true access to the water . . . [and also exists as] a rich habitat for fish, crabs, and birds of the New York Harbor Estuary.” A carousel abutting the waterfront—or anywhere else in the former Empire Fulton Ferry Park—is a clear conflict with the LWCF grant. The carousel would serve as an obstacle to access of the waterfront. Moreover, the carousel, with the proposed large enclosing structure, will obstruct and destroy one of the most famous view corridors to the Brooklyn Bridge and New York City.”
It’s unfair to compare Dumbo Then and Now photos for the not-yet-finished Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, but here are some interim photos of the park. The park is being worked on to improve drainage, add park furnishings, lighting, and of course house Jane’s Carousel. One of the concerns by some with the renovation of the park include the removal of the trees. It looks like the two largest trees have been spared, but the trees near the point of the boardwalk and others in the park have been cut down.
Boycott this thoughtless project of a rich individual’s boredom
In order to install the carousel in the park,
A majestic tree will be chopped down
Nature all around will be destroyed
As will the peace and quiet we’ve enjoyed
No more geese – either chased or terrified by the racket and the crowds
Inevitably, this “mini amusement park” will attract unprecedented crowds, junk-food concession stands, and, in turn, rats at night.
All this because an idle person, Jane Walentas, wife of a developer already responsible for several Dumbo eyesores, has nothing better to do and plenty of power and money to do it. No doubt she thinks of it as her great legacy, for which we should all be thankful. After all, you are incapable of teaching your children to be entertained by a mere park. They must have a whirligig that will improve their lives.
Fight the bully! Go online and tell Jane Walenta [sic] that money doesn’t buy everything. Certainly not our admiration.