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Brooklyn Bridge Park Bigwigs Were Quick to Buy Condos in Disputed Pierhouse

By Rosa Goldensohn | September 24, 2015 10:48am
 David Offensend and Hank Gutman, city-appointed members of the park's board of directors, were among the first to buy condos  in the hotly disputed Pierhouse.
David Offensend and Hank Gutman, city-appointed members of the park's board of directors, were among the first to buy condos in the hotly disputed Pierhouse.
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DNAinfo/Rosa Goldensohn

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Two Brooklyn Bridge Park board members — who helped approve a luxury residential development that critics say blocks coveted views — were among the first to buy condos in the controversial tower last year, DNAinfo New York has learned.

David Offensend and Henry Gutman, then-members of the Brooklyn Bridge Park’s board of directors, were quick to sign purchasing agreements for apartments at the Pierhouse in March 2014, the park confirmed Tuesday.

The Pierhouse has come under fire from opponents for obstructing the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Promenade, Brooklyn Heights’ walkway over the East River, and has sparked protests from neighbors and an unsuccessful lawsuit to halt its construction.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation approved and oversaw the creation of the building on state land and will receive the property taxes generated there.

Offensend, who stepped down from the park corporation’s Board of Directors in July, and Gutman, who remains on the board, got clearance from the city's Law Department to buy units in the tony building, which includes a screening room, a pet wash station and a "young adults study" room, according to documents filed with the state.

The park could not provide details on the units they purchased, but prices for the condos that sold in March 2014 spanned from $2.05 million, for a one-bedroom apartment, to $6.76 million for a four-bedroom apartment with a 2,028-square-foot terrace.

Offensend declined to comment and Gutman did not respond to a request for comment.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Vice President Belinda Cape said the men adhered to the park’s code of ethics.

"Directors who signed contracts for units in the Pier 1 development followed all requirements of BBP’s Code of Ethics, including disclosure of the contract and recusal from votes pertaining to their interest as determined in consultation with Corporation Counsel," Cape wrote in an email. "Further, these directors obtained clearance from Corporation Counsel prior to executing contracts in March 2014 and affirmed in writing that they purchased at market value and received no special dispensation, gifts or favors whatsoever in connection with the transaction."

But Brooklyn Heights neighbors said even if the board members followed the law, their move to buy condos betrayed the neighborhood’s trust.

Steven Guterman, who has been leading the crusade against the Pierhouse with the group Save the View Now, said the two failed to provide oversight to the project or consider community opposition, putting their interests ahead of the public.

According to Guterman, Gutman initially shared similar concerns about the obstructed views a decade ago when planning started, but since then had backed off.

"He was concerned not only about the park but the impact of the buildings that are going to be built on the views from the Promenade," Guterman said. "I do not think anyone expected the concern for the views to be forgotten."

The city's Conflict of Interest Board said it had issued no public opinions in the case.

Leadership at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a private corporation that created and maintains the East River park, is appointed by the mayor and governor.

Both Gutman and Offensend were appointed to three-year terms by former mayor Michael Bloomberg at the time of the corporation’s formation in 2010 and reappointed in 2013, Cape said.

Gutman, an attorney, is also chairman of the board of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. Offensend was chief operating officer of the New York Public Library until last year.