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$160M Bushwick Inlet Park Deal Nearly Failed Over BP 'Misunderstanding'

By Gwynne Hogan | April 21, 2017 9:30am | Updated on April 24, 2017 8:28am
 Borough President Eric Adams, captured climbing out of a tent at a sleep-in in the summer of 2016, pulled out $2 million he'd pledged he'd chip in to help buy the promised park, nearly botching the whole deal, according to Norman Brodsky, the former property owner.
Borough President Eric Adams, captured climbing out of a tent at a sleep-in in the summer of 2016, pulled out $2 million he'd pledged he'd chip in to help buy the promised park, nearly botching the whole deal, according to Norman Brodsky, the former property owner.
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Facebook/Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park

WILLIAMSBURG — The $160 million dollar deal finalized Wednesday for the last piece of land needed to complete the 27-acre Bushwick Inlet Park nearly collapsed at the last minute over a misunderstanding with the Brooklyn Borough President's office and a million dollar shortfall, officials familiar with negotiations said.

The effort to get the deal done was a culmination of a nearly two-decade push from politicians and the community to transform the former industrial zone, which now houses enormous storage warehouses, into a sprawling waterfront oasis.

The property owner Norman Brodsky said he wanted his property to become the parkland that was promised to North Brooklyn residents during the area's 2005 rezoning, and wanted to sell to the city, but was nearly put off at the 11th hour in November because elected officials flip flopped on meeting his final asking price.

 The city closed a $160 million deal on the waterfront CitiStorage property on Wednesday.
The city closed a $160 million deal on the waterfront CitiStorage property on Wednesday.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

Originally, Brodsky, a Williamsburg investor and businessman, had demanded $325 million for the land, claiming that he had several suitors willing to pay top dollar. The city countered with a $100 million low-ball offer and a public relations campaign geared at shaming Brodsky into selling at a discount.

The advocacy group Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park set up a countdown clock, camped out overnight with local politicians and rallied on the steps of City Hall to draw attention to the cause.

As Brodsky and the city started haggling, the two sides narrowed the gap between the price to just $5 million dollars, with the city offering $155 million and Brodsky unmovable at $160 million.

Local City Councilman Stephen Levin began working to close the gap further, pulling $1 million from his $5 million pot of capital funds, tapping City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito for another $2 million, Levin confirmed.

Levin hoped to fill the last $2 million gap with funds from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams' $60 million capital budget, but at the last minute, Adams' office said they would only pay $1 million, sending the councilman scrambling to make up the difference.

Levin came to Brodsky asking him to accept a million less, but the owner wouldn't budge. At the end of the day, Levin decided he'd put in $2 million of his limited capital budget toward the park, he confirmed.

"So the Brooklyn borough president says, 'I helped do this, I helped do that.' He almost blew the whole deal," Brodsky said. "People should know what he did."

"I think I would have sold it to a third party," Brodsky said, adding that he had two interested parties who were willing to pay around $170 million for the property and planned to build as-of-right commercial buildings there, though he declined to comment on who the buyers were.

"Everybody thinks he was one of the moving parties because he slept overnight at the sleep-in," Brodsky said.

"I think the public deserves to know the truth of how the deal was put together. Without their Councilman Steve Levin, particularly Steve, without him ... it would have never gotten done," he said. "Credit should be where credit belongs."

But Levin blamed himself for the confusion with the Borough President's.

"I had a mistaken expectation that the borough president would be able to commit $2 million. That was just my mistaken expectation. I was under that expectation because the borough president has more capital funds than I do," he said. "It was my mistake."

Stefan Ringel, a spokesman for the Adams said the borough president had only ever committed to putting $1 million toward the park.

"He has been true to that. He's still in for $1 million dollars. The number was $1 million dollars period and he was an advocate for the project both in front of cameras and behind the scenes. ... He camped out in the rain."

The Wednesday purchase of the 11-acre waterfront property, which houses CitiStorage, is the last piece of property the city needed to complete a 27-acre park promised to North Brooklyn during the 2005 rezoning that allowed for the explosion of luxury apartment buildings along the waterfront.

Beyond the $160 million, the city has already shelled out $225 million in the first phase of building out Bushwick Inlet Park, which has gone toward completing a first section of the park, buying another parcel of land, and remediation and demolition costs on those sites, according to the Parks Department.