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Willoughby Square Park construction presses on despite legal challenge

The city still plans to open part of the park this summer

The construction site of Downtown Brooklyn’s Willoughby Square Park.
Caroline Spivack/Curbed NY

The city can start work on a long-stalled park, but won’t be able to perform major work until a legal challenge filed over the project is resolved, according to a stipulation agreement filed in state supreme court.

The NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is in the midst of assembling part of Willoughby Square Park between Gold and Duffield streets. That leg of construction will likely be completed and available to the public before July 4, but city officials can’t do anything beyond minor surface work until December 2, court documents show. EDC says it does not expect the provision to effect the project’s timeline.

The arrangement is the result of a lawsuit filed by the developer EDC initially hired in 2013, Long-Island based American Development Group, to build the Downtown Brooklyn park with a since-scrapped subterranean parking lot.

EDC says the developer failed to meet a January 27, 2019 deadline for a trio of conditions—to secure funds for the project, negotiate an arrangement with a neighboring construction site, and to finalize details with the group operating the park once it’s built—and killed the deal three days later.

City officials revived the project in March, but now plan to build the green space without American Development Group and the high-tech underground parking lot. Instead, EDC is building the space itself and will also create a memorial to honor the neighborhood’s abolitionist history. American Development Group cried foul, arguing that it did meet the city’s expectations and filed a suit days after the announcement—claiming the agency worked to “sabotage” its efforts. The lawsuit is currently in the midst of winding its way through court.

In the meantime, EDC contractors are working to transform a barren patch of 15,000 square feet into a welcoming green space by installing fencing, benches, and lighting. The space is also being laid out with synthetic turf grass, gravel, and planters for lush greenery, court filings show.