DOJ Weighs in on Tobacco Warehouse Feud

tobacco-warehouse-1-20100.jpgBig news on the Tobacco Warehouse front: Yesterday a press release was issued (click through for the whole thing) saying the Department of Justice has, for the time being, “ordered the City of New York to treat the Tobacco Warehouse as if it were again fully protected federal land.” This counts as a victory, therefore, for community groups opposing the city’s decision to hand the site over to arts group St. Ann’s Warehouse. More details from the release: “DOJ’s order to the City averted a court date, which had been scheduled today before Federal District Judge Eric Vitaliano on Plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order. Plaintiffs’ motion sought suspension of the 2008 decision to de-park the Tobacco Warehouse. DOJ effectively suspended the decision by ordering City officials to treat the Tobacco Warehouse as if it had full federal protection. The DOJ letter was made necessary by the City’s refusal to stop the process towards privatizing the Tobacco Warehouse, which is ongoing. City officials are preparing a lease for a private tenant to take occupancy, a move which the plaintiffs, in federal and state lawsuits, have been trying to prevent. Plaintiffs must now seek protection in state court, under a temporary restraining order, to make sure City officials abide by DOJ’s order, which the City has resisted up until this point.”
Two Lawsuits Over the Tobacco Warehouse [Brownstoner]
Photo by RambleOn623

Brooklyn’s Tobacco Warehouse Case:

Department of Justice Directs City to Back Off
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Averts Court Date on Group’s Federal Injunction Motion

Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the National Park Service (NPS) is officially reviewing its 2008 decision which had allowed State and City officials to remove the Tobacco Warehouse from federal protection, which, in turn, permitted private development of this treasured landmark. Plaintiffs’ suit alleges that the National Park Service ignored its own regulations in allowing the de-parking of the Tobacco Warehouse, and that State Parks gave misleading information as the basis of its application to de-park the landmark.

During this review by National Parks, DOJ, in a highly unusual move, ordered the City of New York to treat the Tobacco Warehouse as if it were again fully protected federal land.

The plaintiffs, the Brooklyn Heights Association, the Fulton Ferry Landing Association, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy filed suit to prevent the wrongful de-parking – or removal from public parkland – of the historic Tobacco Warehouse in Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. They did so after obtaining documents through the Freedom of Information Law which showed that City and State officials had removed the Tobacco Warehouse from the park’s map so that it could be developed by a private organization for its sole and permanent use.

DOJ’s order to the City averted a court date, which had been scheduled today before Federal District Judge Eric Vitaliano on Plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order. Plaintiffs’ motion sought suspension of the 2008 decision to de-park the Tobacco Warehouse. DOJ effectively suspended the decision by ordering City officials to treat the Tobacco Warehouse as if it had full federal protection.

The DOJ letter was made necessary by the City’s refusal to stop the process towards privatizing the Tobacco Warehouse, which is ongoing. City officials are preparing a lease for a private tenant to take occupancy, a move which the plaintiffs, in federal and state lawsuits, have been trying to prevent. Plaintiffs must now seek protection in state court, under a temporary restraining order, to make sure City officials abide by DOJ’s order, which the City has resisted up until this point. Although the Tobacco Warehouse resides in a federally protected state park Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park – the City of New York actually controls and operates the park.

In the letter to the City, US Attorney Loretta E. Lynch told the City that, In view of NPS’s ongoing reconsideration of the 2008 decision, the City should refrain from taking any action inconsistent with a possible determination by NPS that the…boundary for Fulton Ferry Park will need to be revised again.

Plaintiffs’ counsel, Jim Walden of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, said: “We applaud the National Park Service for revisiting its 2008 decision, and we applaud the Department of Justice for wisely seeking to protect this landmark during National Park’s review. We hope the City will finally agree to stand down. If they do not, we will be forced, yet again, to seek protection in the courts. Given the serious issues raised in our lawsuit, and the swift actions of the National Park Service and the Department of Justice, we had hoped the City would reach across the table. They still have time to do so.