Permission has been granted to begin work – but nothing major —- on the city’s park plan at Willoughby Square in Downtown Brooklyn.
In the meantime, there are legal challenges.
As part of the stipulation agreement filed June 13, the city’s Economic Development Corp. can start minor work, but for now that’s about it. The legal wrangling pits the city’s economic development arm against American Development, the agency’s former private partner on the project.
“The developer was selected in 2013 to build a park on the 1.2-acre block—framed by Willoughby Street, Albee Square West and Duffield Street—along with a 500-car underground parking garage, but negotiations for the deal collapsed in February,” reported Crain’s New York Business. “When the EDC announced last month it would build the park—minus the parking—on its own, American Development sued the next day.”
In the meantime, turf, gravel, benches, light posts and fencing are going into the 1.2-acre lot. Noted Crain’s, “The agency plans to open part of the lot to the public by July 4 while the design plans are finalized. The EDC will invest at least $15 million into the park, which will include a memorial to the neighborhood’s abolitionist history. The stipulation agreement allows the EDC to continue its minor surface work but requires the agency provide written notice of any major construction until at least Dec. 2.”
The Long Island-based developer American Development Group’s head Perry Finkleman “is taking the city to court for working to “sabotage” his group’s efforts to construct the park with a high-tech underground garage beneath it, before cancelling communications with the firm on Jan. 30, according to an affidavit first reported on by Curbed,” reported Brooklynpaper.com.
“The organization filed the legal documents with the state’s supreme court one day after the development agency revealed its plans to revive the years-in-the-making 1.15-acre park between Gold and Duffield streets,” the web site continued, “with construction beginning in 2020 without subterranean parking and with a monument dedicated to the area’s abolitionist history — at a fraction of the original cost.”
That the project is going forward at all is probably cause for optimism. Just this past January, it had been effectively scrapped. “Following several years of working in good faith, we are disappointed that the developer did not meet critical closing conditions on the Willoughby Square project,” a spokesperson for EDC, the city agency overseeing the development, said at the time.
“As part of NYC’s 2004 Downtown Brooklyn Redevelopment Plan, Willoughby Square Park was promised to the community when the Downtown neighborhood was rezoned,” web site bklyner.com lamented. “The city awarded American Development Group the project in 2013. Residents—including some rent-stabilized tenants—of buildings located on the project site bounded by Willoughby Street, Albee Square West, and Duffield Street, were evicted so that their homes could be demolished to make way for the development according to 6sqft.”
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