What has the green movement come to when illegal dumping creates parks? Three weeks ago, a sanitation official passing by the Eastern Terminal District site between North 7th and North 11th Streets in Brooklyn caught carters from a nearby demolition project illegally dumping debris into a corroded pier. The crime has now launched an investigation that may undo a deal that would have turned this section of hot Williamsburg waterfront real estate into a movie multiplex. Ironically, the land may instead wind up as a park.
The Blumenfeld Development Corporation, which has signed an option to buy the land, has been planning to build a multiplex on the site. Before the dumping, these developers were in the midst of negotiations with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to do a “voluntary cleanup” of the site, in which they would pledge to do a limited cleanup in exchange for long-run freedom from liability.
But because of the illegal dump, DEC has launched an investigation that could potentially force the developer to do a longer, more costly cleanup, explained DEC spokesperson Jennifer Post. “Findings [from the investigation] may affect future plans for the site,” she said. In any case, nothing can happen until DEC is done, which could take at least several weeks. “We’ll do the investigation first and anything else will come later,” said Paul Gallay, special assistant to the commissioner.
In the interim, Brooklyn green activists Neighbors Against Garbage (NAG) are lobbying the state and city to resolve their political differences long enough to spend part of the $10 million in state open space funding that has already been set aside to buy this site and two others. It was the stalling from this political dispute that allowed Blumenfeld, with a $8 million offer, to convince the property owners that it could get state approval for the theater before the community could for a park. The Blumenfeld plan also ended New York University’s flirt with turning the 15-acre site into a new sports complex.
While NAG continues to fight for the land, state assemblyman Joseph Lentol is trying to get the developer to include community space in the multiplex plan. He said Blumenfeld is open to setting aside some space for the community so long as it can be integrated with the company’s plans. “They’re developers, and they want to make a profit,” Lentol said. “At the same time they don’t want a fight on their hands.” Calls to Blumenfeld Development Corporation were not returned.
At the very least, NAG hopes to pester the state into forcing the developer to do a thorough environmental assessment, using the dumping of unknown contents into the pier as the impetus. But it’s a lot of nail-biting political wrangling for just one park. “It’s a little too much,” said NAG’s Lead Organizer Peter Gillespie. “We just want a park.”