Sections

Holy smokes! Tobacco Warehouse will become St. Ann’s Warehouse

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

DUMBO’s historic Tobacco Warehouse will become a playhouse under a new deal that will keep a beloved avante-garde venue on Water Street by allowing private development on parkland.

St. Ann’s Warehouse will build its new home inside the landmarked shell of a Civil War-era building that had been a federally protected park until 2010, when the city controversially redrew zoning maps in an attempt to remove it from the National Parks Service’s control — a move that resulted in a lawsuit by opponents.

But the new plan exchanges the lost parkland at the Tobacco Warehouse with more than an acre of city-owned asphalt under the Manhattan Bridge.

Mayor Bloomberg said the agreement — which paves the way for a new $15-million performance venue and 38,000-square feet of green space beneath the bridge — will allow the Civil War-era building to be preserved and reused for the community’s benefit.

“Brooklyn Bridge Park has quickly become woven into the fabric of the neighborhood and this expansion will make it an even more invaluable community resource,” he said.

For the deal to be finalized, state legislators must pass a law permitting the development of the Tobacco Warehouse and the adjoining Empire Stores — an historic warehouse built between Old Dock Street and Main Street in 1885 that is slated to be converted into a retail and commercial facility.

Brooklyn Bridge Park planners hope transforming Empire Stores into a Chelsea Market-style shopping center will help fund the green space — but that won’t happen until the National Parks Service signs off the plan.

Critics have long complained that handing over the Tobacco Warehouse to a private theater company would be an encroachment on public space — going so far as to file suit in 2010 alleging that the city illegally rezoned the Water Street site and awarded it to the world-renowned theater with the state’s backing.

“It’s atrocious that there is a settlement — it’s a giveaway of the only real parkland for private development,” said the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance’s Doreen Gallo. “It’s a transparent land grab and it’s a bad deal — they didn’t get anything for it. They gave away sacred historic sites.”

But other opponents say they have come to accept the new agreement.

“At the end of the day, everyone came together and agreed on the importance of process. All of the state and federal legal protections for parks and historic sites will be respected,” said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. “All appropriate public process will be followed.”

St. Ann’s will renovate the Tobacco Warehouse, constructing an enclosed theater inside the aging brick walls after the state approves the plan — which seems likely since state Sen. Dan Squadron (D–DUMBO) and Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Brooklyn Heights), who initially opposed the warehouse plan, now support the deal.

“This agreement is another sign that the community’s role is critical as we shape open space,” he said.

The theater company will move into a temporary headquarters at 29 Jay St. for the next three years and will lease the Tobacco Warehouse from the city once it is up to code.

“We are heartened by this agreement and hope that our dream for a new home at the Tobacco Warehouse will be realized,” said Joseph Steinberg, chairman of the St. Ann’s Warehouse board of directors.

Reach reporter Aaron Short at ashort@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2547.

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reader Feedback

Claude Scales from Brooklyn Heights says:
While the deal between the City and the various neighborhood and preservation groups opens the possibility that the Tobacco Warehouse may become the site of a new St. Ann's Warehouse, your headline is misleading in that it assumes this is a fait accompli. As the story correctly states, legislation must pass allowing the exchange of City owned land for the Tobacco Warehouse and Empire Stores sites. Moreover, St. Ann's will have to negotiate a new agreement for the use of the Tobacco Warehouse space, and will have to find a way to fund construction of its new venue.
May 31, 2012, 8:41 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
this is terrible. The tobacco warehouse should be for everyone, not given over to a private enterprise.
May 31, 2012, 11:09 am
frank from furter says:
the Tobacco warehouse is not open now. Its four walls and a floor-nothing else. St Ann's is a not for profit. st Ann's is for everyone as well.
May 31, 2012, 1:28 pm
frank from furter says:
the Tobacco warehouse is not open now. Its four walls and a floor-nothing else. St Ann's is a not for profit. st Ann's is for everyone as well.
May 31, 2012, 1:28 pm
mary from cobble home says:
tempest in the teapot. never understood the public outcry. Many of the city's great cultural institutions - the Met, Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens - are located in parklands.
May 31, 2012, 2:07 pm
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
Great! Yet another part of the park turned over to someone who wants you pay to use it.
May 31, 2012, 7:15 pm
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
Great! Yet another part of the park turned over to someone who wants you to pay to use it.
May 31, 2012, 7:15 pm
Brian Shave from Brooklyn Heights says:
"Great! Yet another part of the park turned over to someone who wants you to pay to use it."

You mean as opposed to the Conservancy which has operated the Tobacco Warehouse as a private wedding tent for rent for the last 8 years?
June 1, 2012, 2:04 am
Brian Shave from Brooklyn Heights says:
"Great! Yet another part of the park turned over to someone who wants you to pay to use it."

You mean as opposed to the Conservancy which has operated the Tobacco Warehouse as a private wedding tent for rent for the last 8 years?
June 1, 2012, 2:04 am
David from Williamsburg says:
Corporatism has won over public interest every time, in the last decade. They keep pushing the greed envelope to see if we'll push back, I say clothes line them, period. This type of bull hockey is happening all over, I wish people would get upset at the fact that we have the best politicians lobbyists can buy in washington, in case you need to be told, those are "legal bribes". Corporations put so much money into DC they get to write their own laws, believe it or not, lets put blame where it all began, as this type of way of doing things, for all intents and purposes is unsustainable. What will it take for america to wake up, sad really...
May 13, 2013, 9:13 pm

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

This week’s featured advertisers