What is happening at Brooklyn Bridge Park and the “non-profit” that runs it, the “under attack” Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, encapsulates issues that inevitably occur once an organization like this is put in charge: a lack of transparency, change in use of the space, restricted public access, lack of accountability, information hidden from the public, a we-know-better attitude, to name just a few.
In this case, the Board of Directors is appointed by the Mayor so it is a slightly different model but still it is run “outside of government.” It is a park run as a business – similar to the private conservancies and BID “models” – and the problems and inequities that result are the same.
From Crain’s New York Business: High costs of maintaining Brooklyn Bridge Park didn’t stop its execs from getting big raises
While pushing for residential development to fund the park’s high costs, officials received raises as high as 50%
by Joe Anuta
Executive members of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. received raises as high as nearly 50% between 2013 and 2014, reigniting criticism of their insistence that residential development is needed to pay the park’s expenses.
Regina Myer, president of the corporation overseeing the park, saw her base salary bumped to $190,550 in 2014 from $165,000, for example, while General Counsel Suma Mandel got a raise to $125,278 from $85,000, according to publicly available records.
The raises approved during the Bloomberg administration ranged from 11% to 47%, but were not nearly enough to have changed park managers’ calculations about how to maintain the waterfront property. The base salary increase for five of the seven executive members totaled $118,990—a fraction of what the corporation predicts will be the $16 million annual operating cost.
But the board did not appear to have discussed the raises in any public meetings. And the revelation that they received a bump while pushing for residential development to fund operations and maintenance has given fresh ammunition to a community group fighting a pair of apartment towers planned for the park’s Pier 6, near the terminus of Atlantic Avenue.
“I find it hard to understand how this park can offer such employee pay increases when similar city agencies haven’t awarded any pay raises at all in years, all the while this park is claiming that they don’t have enough money and therefore need to build more housing,” said Todd Castilow, a nominated member of Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council, who researched the salary information in public databases.
The new salaries of the executive team are roughly in line with those of counterparts at the city Department of Parks and Recreation and other organizations. Hudson River Park Trust head Madelyn Wils, for example, earned $175,000 in total pay in 2014, according to SeeThroughNY. In other cases, executives at Brooklyn Bridge Park still made less. After her nearly 50% raise, Mandel made about $35,000 less than the general counsel at the Parks Department, a much larger agency with 5,000 properties and 2.6 million trees.
“The salaries reported here are entirely appropriate and consistent with those of park staff across the city,” a spokesman for the corporation said in a statement. “This is simply another attempt by a small handful of Pier 6 project opponents to distract from the real issues facing the park.” …
Dick Dadey, head of the good-government group Citizens Union, said that while executives who run parks should be fairly compensated, government institutions such as the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. should take care to be transparent about wages, especially when engaged in a protracted battle such as the years-long disagreement about how much development is needed to fund upkeep and operations. Dadey sits on the board of the park’s advocacy arm, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, which is separate from the corporation.
“The more transparent an operation is, the less subject it is to accusations that it is hiding something,” said Dadey. “And when the park corporation is under attack as it is, it’s even more important to be as up-front about decisions that it makes.”
And then here are some of the comments where often you get to the heart of the matter:
Judi Francis: The park will have almost a billion dollars in surplus funds coming from existing development inside the park. What we need is more park lands not more housing. And the important entrance on Atlantic Ave, open and accessible and not blocked by inappropriate housing inside a park – any housing. When did parks become so unimportant? What this article points out is the hypocrisy of the park’s administration – taking huge salaries and crying about not having enough funds. Really? And this, the most manicured park on earth, with a budget that is more than all parks spend in all of Brooklyn put together. It is a travesty of major scale and it is NOT some small group of complainers – it is a huge coalition of communities that are crying foul. Time for a reboot. Time to get back to finishing these lands as park lands for the thousands of new apartments that have no new open space planned. Time for a new administration, too.
Joan Goldberg: The park is fully funded without one more square foot of housing. We need to dedicate all space remaining in this waterfront development site (otherwise known as Brooklyn Bridge Park) AS PARK LAND. The current park administrators are a disgrace and need to go.
Peter L.: I represent the Cobble Hill Association on the BBP CAC [Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Committee] and what I find especially alarming is that the raises were approved at a time when a considerable amount of public money was being wasted on projects that were either mismanaged or poorly designed. There was Squibb Bridge that cost approx. $4 mil. in public funds, was closed not too long after it was opened, they spent approx. $1.1 mil. to try and repair it without success and just a couple of months ago asked the BBP board o approve a further $517k to hire an engineering firm to come up with a new ‘fix’ that will then lead to a RFP being issued that will lead to another major cost to try and fix it, again. The Pier 6 meadow has design flaws that are causing water run off on to the surround walkway and causing black ice to develop during the winter months, According to the BBP they have no plans to fix it, Then there is the matter of the faulty canopies over the soccer fields that had to be removed and now the BBP is suing both the fabricator and MVVA, the architect, again at tax payers expense.
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This doesn’t even address the whole “Save the View Now” issue at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Previously at Washington Square Park Blog: