Bayside Fuel Oil Depot Corporation (Part 1)

black and white image of three graffiti covered fuel oil tanks
Black & White for old times' sake. 

The end of Bayside Fuel Depot has come to an end.

During July - August 2019, the last vestiges of this waterfront property located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York came to an end. All that is left is the concrete base that will be assessed and remediated for the toxic contaminants in the soil. It brings to an end a swirling debate among locals and preservationists who had competing ideas on how the park (Bushwick Inlet Park Extension) should be redeveloped once the cleanup was finished. Locals wanted the tanks removed because it would spoil the views of Manhattan across the river. Preservationists wanted to incorporate the empty 50-foot tanks into the design of the new park which would respect the storied history and architecture of what was once an industrial oil transfer station. To learn more details of their proposal you can read them here.

It even seemed the city sided with locals on the removal of all the tanks contrary to an environmental consultant who established remediation could be done with the tanks remaining on site. (Consultant was hired independently by The Tank group). The city moved against that public determination even though no environmental assessment by the city corroborated or differentiated from that assessment. All had agreed that remediation would release noxious vapors in the air just as what occurred in a 2002 remediation attempt. Furthermore, the city's way would cost $200 million to clean up the site whilst leaving the tanks in situ would have cost $26 million. On top of the demolition costs of $22.1 million billed to the city. Development in the city always carries a huge price tag. Just next door the city paid $160 million for Williamsburg developer Norman Brodsky's CitiStorage 11-acre parcel. In addition, Brodsky felt he could get a $300 million payday because he had other offers on the table.

One of my favorite photos from this place. 

tree inside a abandoned fuel oil tank
Inside one of the 50-foot tanks.

During the Bloomberg administration’s rezoning of Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront, property owners of the industrial sites reaped bountiful soaring property values. Almost 200 blocks of property were allowed to construct high-end residences against the waterfront. In the southern area of Bushwick Inlet Park, the owner of a car/truck rental business pocketed $95 million in an eminent domain proceeding. (There are conflicting news reports. Some say it was a car rental and even the NYTimes called it a truck rental business in another article. So far haven’t found even the name of this purported business.) That 8.7-acre half now holds a park building, a playground, and a multipurpose playing field. CitiStorage property owner Brodsky wanted back in 2011 the same per-square-foot price as the car/truck rental business which would have cost the city around $120 million. A 2015 fire destroyed one of the two CitiStorage buildings that existed next to Bayside Fuel Depot. That fire rekindled a long-promised 28-acre Bushwick park that never came to fruition with the 2005 Bloomberg rezoning.

In 2016, the city offered Brodsky $100 million but he declined that offer. Heck, who wouldn’t turn down a cool $100 million when the property owner of the car/truck business received close to $100 million. Brodsky probably saw the zeroes starting to grow larger for his property. Suffice it to say the city offered the rental business $12 million but through eminent domain and a former Williamsburg city councilman then a judge, named Abraham Gerges, valued it to the astronomical price it was given. The city did not want to go through an eminent domain proceeding with Norman Brodsky at the time since it would have been more than $100 million in costs if a judge had assessed the property’s value. The city even created legislation wrapped in the Empire State Development Corporation to seize the property but never proceeded with this nuclear option. The city had estimated a low figure of $60 million to a high of $500 million in purchasing this last parcel sandwiched in the middle of the existing park. Eventually, the DeBlasio administration finally negotiated an agreeable price with the owner and a hefty bill for taxpayers.

freshly demolished fuel oil depot work site
As of October 21, 2019, Bayside Fuel Depot's current status. Looking North from the back of the property.

aerial drone work site of demolished industrial property
As of October 21, 2019, the backside of the pier.

Aerial view of where the tanks would have been located. 

In addition, the city also purchased a 2.5-acre plot for $30 million and $53 million for Bayside Fuel’s property. So far the city invested heavily into this multiyear project over 315 million dollars and keeps on growing. The city did not do itself any favors by rezoning the waterfront because whilst the city was in the midst of long negotiations and eminent domain proceedings, property values soared increasing the industrial sites which would become the long-planned park promised during the rezoning. In turn, property speculators and vultures quietly bought up large tracts of proximity properties for far less than the open hand of the city. That’s another story for another day. The owner of the car/truck rental argued in proceedings that the rezoning increased the value of his property due to the allowance of higher apartment buildings in the area from an industrial marked zone to a residential one.

Today the final parcel has been purchased but the long-awaited park still has a long way to go before it is complete. This is just the beginning. Long overdue since the park was proposed to be built all the way back in 2005.

One of the most prominent pieces seen far away from the property.

Back views from the central building.

Always check out the roof for views. New development in the back overlooking what is now a large concrete pad. 

metal tube piping leading to vacant fuel oil tank system
I missed a crucial time visiting this place before they tore out the ground pipes seen in my DJI aerial video. Sad.
green bayside oil fuel depot time card
A time card.

Continue on to Part 2 & Part 3 in this three-part photo essay series. 


Aerial View of Former Bayside Fuel Depot (Bushwick Park Inlet Extension)

Brooklyn Paper: Sold! City buys CitiStorage for $160M, can finally finish Bushwick Inlet Park

The Tanks Project

Curbed: After a Fire, Campaigning for a Long-Awaited Greenpoint Park

DNAInfo: Seize CitiStorage Property by Eminent Domain to Build Park, Advocates Urge

6sft: Demolition of debated vacant oil tanks in Williamsburg begins

Archpaper: Contested Oil Tanks Bushwick Inlet Park Demolished

NYMag: The Tanks in Bushwick Inlet Park

NYTimes: Disparate Visions for a Park: Dismantle Industrial Ruins, or Preserve Them

NYTimes: Williamsburg Warehouse Fire Revives Talk of a Promised Park

NYTimes: Tower Has Its Own Lawn, but Neighbors Still Look for Their Open Space

NYTimes: Price Tag on a Brooklyn Park Reaches $225 Million, and That’s Only the Beginning

Gothamist: State May Use Eminent Domain To Seize Final Parcel Of Bushwick Inlet Park


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