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Stalled Brooklyn park to get $8M lifeline

Stalled Brooklyn park to get $8M lifeline

Crain’s  New York 9/28/2011

By Shane Dixon Kavanaugh

Developers and local officials in downtown Brooklyn banding together to fill key funding gap in construction of one-acre green space atop planned 694-slot garage.

In an effort to revive the stalled construction of a public park at Willoughby Square in downtown Brooklyn, local developers and elected officials are raising millions of dollars to make up for a funding cut by the city’s Economic Development Corp., which has overseen and largely bankrolled the project.

The one-acre green space is intended to sit atop a 694-space underground garage, and has long been viewed by the city and the surrounding business community as a centerpiece of downtown Brooklyn’s revitalization.

In fact, the city has already shelled out $40 million on acquisition, relocation, demolition and design costs for the $70 million project, whose price tag doesn’t include the cost of actually constructing the garage, which is being borne by private companies.

Many were shocked when the Economic Development Corp. cut around $7 million from its capital budget last year intended for the park, essentially putting the brakes on Willoughby Square.

“This is a project that can break ground and be significantly advanced in the next few years,” said a person who worked closely on Willoughby Square, noting that the Economic Development Corp. pumped tens of millions into the redevelopment of Willets Point in Queens, even though it continues to face community opposition and its completion date remains uncertain. “It made no sense,” the insider said.

That’s why area developers, with the help of some elected officials, are cobbling together approximately $8 million—which will provide the bulk of the needed funding for the $10 million park.

An Economic Development Corp. spokeswoman said, “We remain committed to advancing the park and continue to look at alternative financing options.”

Residential developer Avalon Communities, as well as the developer of the big mixed-use CityPoint project nearby, have each committed to contributing $2.5 million, according people familiar with the deal. Both developers’ nearby projects are required to provide parking to meet zoning requirements.

In addition, the park is widely viewed as something that would be an amenity that would make it easier for developers to market their buildings.

Meanwhile, Domenic Recchia, the Brooklyn Democrat who chairs the City Council Finance Committee, has been able to restore about $1 million in city cuts. In addition, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and other downtown developers have come up with $2 million, according to people briefed on the matter.

The project funding is expected to be finalized within the next couple of weeks.