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Seize CitiStorage Property by Eminent Domain to Build Park, Advocates Urge

By Gwynne Hogan | August 8, 2016 3:14pm
 Park advocates are calling on the city to begin eminent domain proceedings to seize the CitiStorage property.
Park advocates are calling on the city to begin eminent domain proceedings to seize the CitiStorage property.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

CITY HALL — Advocates and local politicians are calling on the city to seize the last piece of waterfront property it needs in order to complete a 27-acre waterfront park using eminent domain.

The city's $100 million offer to property owner Norman Brodsky for the CitiStorage site at Kent Avenue and North 11 Street on the Williamsburg/Greenpoint Waterfront expired on Monday.

Park supporters now want the city to take legal action to secure the land.

"The City's offer was an important step and, as it expires today, eminent domain can guarantee our promised park becomes a real park," said State Senator Daniel Squadron, State Assemblyman Joe Lentol, U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Local Councilman Steve Levin, who are all calling for the use of eminent domain to seize the property.

 The city's $100 million offer to owner Norman Brodsky expired Monday.
The city's $100 million offer to owner Norman Brodsky expired Monday.
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Cushman and Wakefield

"Given the history of the site, the need for open space, the scope of the project and the longstanding city commitment, eminent domain is an appropriate tool that must be on the table as part of a city commitment to complete Bushwick Inlet Park now," said Squadron, when asked why such a drastic legal measure was warranted.

U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney expressed similar urgency in a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio. 

"There is no time to delay," she wrote. "Given the owner's intransigence, the city must exercise eminent domain."

Eminent domain allows the government to seize private property for public use, so long as the property owner is justly compensated.

It's previously been used for roads, parks and housing projects,  but is often met with community opposition.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has said the city wants to negotiate a price with Brodsky, struck a more cautious tone.

"The city remains open to discussions with the owner about ways to guarantee that the community's needs are met," said spokeswoman Natalie Grybauskas, adding that the $100 million is $3 million more per acre than the city paid for other pieces of the future Bushwick Inlet Park. 

"A negotiated sale is the most expedient way to acquire this property and the City’s offer is fair."

On Monday Grybauskas warned that using eminent domain might end up costing taxpayers far more than the $100 million offer because it would be up to a judge to determine the value of the land.

Brodsky has called the city's $100 million a lowball offer.

Park advocates have argued that because of the "project influence rule," a judge could pin the land's value at its pre-zoning amount. New York University law professor Roderick Hills, recently wrote a memo to several local elected officials explaining how the project influence rule could pertain to the value of the CitiStorage Property.

“The question is what is the influence of this park, is it a small influence or a big influence?” Hills said.

The city's attorneys could argue that the land would have never been rezoned without the park, and thus they should pay the pre-rezoning rate for the land.

Brodsky's lawyers, on the other hand, would argue that some other rezoning would have happened anyway and the land's value would have gone up with or without the 2005 rezoning, Hills said.

"It does leave it somewhat unpredictable," he said. 

Brodsky was out of the country and couldn't immediately be reached for comment.