Back in November we found out that St. Ann’s Warehouse, the excellent performance space on Water Street in Dumbo, had made the ceremonial shortlist for a competition to redesign the beautiful 1830s tobacco warehouse across the street and, hours later, that their design (not pictured above) had been selected. But…
But then three community groups (Brooklyn Heights Association, the Fulton Ferry Landing Association and the New York Landmarks Conservancy) filed two lawsuits and the project was put on hold after the U.S. Justice Department asked the National Park Service (NPS) to verify the legality of the process by which the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) authorized that the Tobacco Warehouse was taken out of the nearby protected park land and made available for redevelopment. Still following? Ok, good: now the National Park Service has given the project its second blessing.
Gothamist reported that on Monday the NPS endorsed the BBPC move to hand control over the open-air structure to the theatrical presenter, decreeing that the Tobacco Warehouse was never intended exclusively for outdoor recreation, and permits for its use for community, private and/or commercial development. BBPC president Regina Myer issued this statement:
The National Park Service’s decision confirming that use of the Tobacco Warehouse is not restricted to outdoor recreation will allow for the preservation of this historic warehouse and reuse as a vibrant cultural and community venue. A world-class performance space and open-air garden will greatly benefit Brooklyn Bridge Park and the surrounding communities.
Jane McGroarty of the Brooklyn Heights Association countered with another statement, attacking the NPS and vowing to continue opposing the project through lawsuits:
It’s clear that the National Park Service—an agency charged with protecting our public parkland—has reneged on this duty and has yielded to political pressure from City Hall. Our lawsuit continues, and we will litigate vigorously so that these “back room” deals do not rob the public of what is rightfully theirs.
So, finally, maybe, the Tobacco Warehouse will be used again, and St. Ann’s will have an even more beautiful performance space than their current refurbished warehouse. Either that, or this historical shell of a building will remain just that: a set of empty walls. Read the whole NPS decision document in exciting legalese below!