Monday, April 11, 2011

Judge: Tobacco Warehouse and Empire Stores Belong to Park, Not Private Developers

Tobacco Warehouse (left), Empire Stores (right)
United States District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano ruled late Friday evening that the National Park Service violated federal law by removing the historic Tobacco Warehouse and Empire Stores from federally protected parkland in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The Court issued a preliminary injunction ordering NPS to protect these structures from the development plans of the Bloomberg Administration, at least for now.

The city recently approved a proposal from St. Ann's Warehouse to take over the Tobacco Warehouse for use as a theater.

The decision follows a hearing held in Brooklyn Federal Court on March 21. The lawsuit was filed by the Brooklyn Heights Association, the Fulton Ferry Landing Association, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, and the Preservation League of New York State.

According to a release from plaintiffs lawyers Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the Commissioner of the New York City Parks Department, Adrian Benepe, declared that the structures had been "mistakenly" included on the federal map in 2001 and that the Tobacco Warehouse, a roofless structure enjoyed by the public for free outdoor programming between 2003 and 2008, was "not intended" to be used for public recreation.

"The house of cards erected by the defense cannot withstand the gentlest breeze," Judge Vitaliano wrote. Addressing the claim that the structures were included on the federal map "by mistake," the Judge labeled it as "revisionist," and flatly rejected it, saying, "there is . . . not a shred of evidence [to suggest a mistake]."

Elizabeth Merritt, Deputy General Counsel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation said, "The Court sent a clear message that NPS cannot evade a mandatory public-review process by secretly altering documents."

Jane McGroarty, President of the Brooklyn Heights Association, said, "We are gratified by Judge Vitaliano's clear decision. The National Park Service and the State Parks Department acted illegally by removing the Tobacco Warehouse from the public domain.  It belongs to the park, where it can be enjoyed by all."

Joan Zimmerman, President of the Fulton Ferry Landing Association said, "The decision was a resounding rejection of arguments made to justify backroom deals between the City and NPS, and a strong affirmation of the principle that parks are to serve the public, not private interests."

Release here. More on this at the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal

- When the Tobacco Warehouse Had a Roof
- Saint Ann's Warehouse a Go -- Again -- at DUMBO's Tobacco Warehouse
- Handing Over Tobacco Warehouse in DUMBO 'Insulting': Flemming
- Three Brooklyn Heights Association Members Resign in Tobacco Warehouse Flap
- RFP Issued for Tobacco Warehouse in DUMBO
- Tobacco Warehouse, Acute Corner, DUMBO

Photo by MK Metz

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Anonymous said...

That headline mis-reps what judge said. They said process flawed.

Anonymous said...

Judge ruled the Park Service violated federal law by removing the Tobacco Warehouse and Empire Stores from federally protected parkland in Brooklyn Bridge Park. ie, the structures belong to the park.