Willowtowners Fear Traffic Nightmares From Fieldhouse Crowds

Yesterday (Wednesday) evening the Fieldhouse road show continued in Willowtown, at a meeting arranged by the Willowtown Association and hosted by their President, Ben Bankson. The opening presentation was similar to that at St. Francis on Monday, except that Fieldhouse Executive Director Greg Brooks stressed even more–no doubt anticipating the questions he knew would come–that this was a meeting to hear concerns and get information from the community, not to offer answers. Also, the design portion of the presentation was handled by Jean Phifer (photo) of Thomas Phifer and Partners, instead of Greg Smith, of that firm.

Kate Collignon, of consultant HR&A Advisors, Inc., fielded the first volley of questions. The opening question was, what is the expected daily usage of the Fieldhouse? Ms. Collignon said there is no specific expectation at present; this will have to await information from local schools and other community organizations about their needs and desires. The next question was: How, then, can projections of traffic be made for the supplemental Environmental Impact Statement without full information about usage? Joralemon Street resident Frank Ciaccio said the issue of transportation needed to be addressed first. Others quickly seconded this, some noting that Joralemon between Hicks and Furman is already overburdened with auto (especially livery cab) traffic seeking a shortcut to the BQE. There was general agreement that the best solution to this problem was to block entrance to Furman Street from Joralemon. It was suggested that this could be done with retractable bollards that could be lowered to allow passage of emergency vehicles when needed. However, this would require assent of the City’s Department of Transportation, as well, perhaps, of other agencies.

Parking was also a concern. Some residents noted that parking in Willowtown had become more difficult since the playground on Pier 6 had opened, and anticipated its being much worse with the Fieldhouse. Ms. Collignon noted that one of the ways to encourage people to use mass transit instead of cars was to provide jitney service from nearby subway stations. Mr. Ciaccio suggested opening a tunnel from the Clark Street subway platform to Furman Street, which he said could be done at minimal cost.

One resident, noting Ms. Phifer’s emphasis on the lightness of her firm’s buildings, said she had spent a winter fostering a family of abandoned dogs in the the then derelict area where the Fieldhouse is to be constructed. She said the winter time she spent there showed the site to be extremely cold and windy, and she hoped that the architects, who were proud of their “light” buildings, would design something strong enough to withstand the weather. Ms. Phifer assured her that they would.

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  • BklynJace

    I suspect Mr. Ciaccio’s definition of “minimal cost” is different than most people’s.

  • Gerry

    I would think that Willowtowncop could handle the crowd why not leave it to that bag of wind?

  • Elmer Fudd

    Have a hot dog, Gerry.

  • Montaguean

    Ob my god. Is Mr. Ciaccio a transit engineer? Is crazy dog lady an architect? I hope this field house bring so many people that these crazy just move to the burbs where they belong.

    “please design something that can hold up in the winter…” Jesus…

  • Bloomy

    LOL, these suggestions gave me a good laugh this morning. They may possibly be the three worst ideas possible. I wish I could have seen the architects faced trying not to laugh at the dog lady.

    Claude, was there anyone at the meeting saying good things about the project, or with practical ideas?

  • dog lover

    I am so disappointed that you all have resorted to name calling. It is human nature to do our best to protect our home and family.

  • http://selfabsorbedboomer.blogspot.com Claude Scales

    BklynJace: I believe there is an existing passageway leading from the west end of the Clark Street subway platform to a spot on the east side of Furman. There would be some cost to making it usable by the public, but no need to bore a new tunnel. The TA, in its present cash-strapped position, would no doubt resist this, as it would require installing new turnstiles and perhaps an attended booth.

    “Bloomy”: there were several people at the meeting who expressed delight at the prospect of having indoor athletic facilities in the park, both for adults and for use by local schools. As I pointed out above, the Clark Street connection is not an outlandishly impractical idea, though getting the TA to agree might be an uphill battle. The most practical idea, in my view, is closing Joralemon to traffic at Furman, using retractable bollards. Again, this will require the cooperation of City agencies, never an easy thing to achieve, but I don’t think it’s pie-in-the-sky. One practical suggestion that the Fieldhouse could implement within its own budget is providing jitney service from nearby subway stops.

  • Martin L

    Sorry to say this but It doesn’t sound like the central question has been addressed:
    What exactly does a velodrome look like on the inside and what exactly are the other athletic facilities it makes available to the community?
    Pardon my skepticism but this seems to be a highly specialized structure for highly specialized bicycle racing and with very limited possibilities for ordinary, local community recreational activities.
    Does anyone know the physical facts?

  • Peter

    i agree with martin. also, stop worrying about the crowds no one is going to come to biccyle races. why do we use gorgeous seaside property for something that could be put in gowanus next to the new whole foods? id rather it be luxury condos so at least someone can appreciate the land. a velodrome is so worthless. no-one will be able to use it. the bikes alone cost over $1000.

  • BklynJace

    Thanks Claude. I do vaguely recall that now from BBP discussions a few years back.

    Still, my impression is that’s basically a maintenance tunnel/emergency exit. Turning that into any kind of proper exit, with people not stepping out right into traffic on Furman Street, sounds far from simple, cheap or safe. Is there a schematic anywhere?

    The bollards, meanwhile, sound like the usual Heights reaction to ol’ debbil traffic.

  • Fritz

    How many people objecting to traffic also own cars?

  • http://selfabsorbedboomer.blogspot.com Claude Scales

    Peter: the velodrome track will be ovoid in shape (like a horse or NASCAR track, but much smaller) It will slope inward rather steeply, and the inner edge will be raised above ground floor level. It will enclose an infield large enough to accommodate one regulation sized basketball court (or two smaller ones), tennis, or various other activities; it could also be set up as an indoor playground. There will be netting around the inside of the track to keep bikes and cyclists from falling onto the infield. Space under the track may also be usable for various activities.

    BklynJace: I don’t live in Willowtown, but I think that people who do have a legitimate concern with cars going at high speed down the steeply sloping, Belgian blocked portion of Joralemon to gain access to Furman. I’m told this happens quite often.

  • Pat R. Ician

    I do not want that velodrome blocking my view of my yacht (I am planning on parking my boat “it’s All About Me” there once the affordable housing for luxury yachts is completed). So my suggestion is to just move it to Pier 6 or DUMBO just like we did with everything else we didn’t want in the Heights… and you can send that rotten hot dog vender there too while you’re at it! If you want recreation– join the Casino.

  • maestro

    “Luxury yacht” LOL … good one!

  • my2cents

    After all this talk of BH as a citadel for the rich I love that we are now contemplating retractable bollards at Furman and Joralemon. How about a Portcullis? Perhaps we can pour boiling oil (or dirty hot dog water) on the livery cab barbarians at the gate?

  • carol

    Sam Schwartz did a study of the Clark Street Tunnel as part of an access study to BBP several years ago. As I recall the tunnel was in no way suitable for pedestrian access to Furman Street. Essentially -an entire new tunnel would have to be constructed and there would still be the issue of depositing people onto Furman – a prospect made more difficult now that Furman is two way.

  • Hicks on Hicks

    Word of the day: portcullis

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    Yet another stellar example of NIMBYism and perceived entitlement. What, Joralemon St residents imagine they should somehow be protected from having a bit traffic, now and then, while the rest of the nabe deals traffic every day.
    Bollards, really? I wonder how would they would like to be the ones waiting in a burning apartment while a fireman has to get out of the truck and retract a bollard? Imbeciles.

  • Jorale-man

    I suspect that many people coming to a bike race will be arriving on foot (or bike). It’s not that far from the Borough Hall subway station and it’s a pleasant walk down Joralemon.

    That said, I think the park as a whole will mean an increase in pedestrian traffic and with it, potential litter and noise. But the neighborhood will have to adapt and make the best of it. One benefit: I imagine the River Deli and Iris Cafe will do a booming business after all the cyclists finish their races.

  • Bloomy

    I have been both to the track in Atlanta, GA (250M) and the track at Kissena Park (400M) in Queens. The proposed track here is only 200M which means it should have very steep banking, probably 40-45 degrees. It is a fun sports, that does not take a lot of money to participate in. A new inexpensive track bike can be had for $400. Races can last from between 3km to 30km. Most serious racers won’t ride their bike there since track bikes are not allowed to have brakes for safety reasons. (Yes that is correct. There is no reason or need to quickly slow down on a track).

    If you want to see what the planned layout for the velodrome will look like go to http://www.brooklynbridgepark.org/uploads/files/e31fc168-8143-4b06-a3a9-ddc4637c949a.pdf

    Need to know more on Velodromes, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velodrome

  • yoohoo

    Furman Street is already two-way, and there’s no indication that this will change. Therefore, a simpler solution would be to extend the B25 from Old Fulton Street and the B63 from Pier 6 onto Furman Street pincer-fashion, with turn-arounds at the MTA building. The B25, which now also wends its way through Dumbo, looks like a waste of precious MTA funds in that end of its route; I’ve never seen a single person on that bus when it arrives at and leaves Pier 1 and Fulton Ferry Landing. I imagine the Fieldhouse developer/operator will negotiate with the MTA.

    The BBP Fieldhouse operation may need tweaking as the programs evolve and user groups are identified. The donor has committed himself to make up any shortfall in the operations budget for 10 years. Much will depend on the (possibly sliding) fee structure and whether schools and community groups get free or highly subsidized use. Anyone interested in this aspect can look up the Web site of Asphalt Green on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

  • Martin L

    Bloomy, thanks for link to more data about the velodrome.
    It’s hard to judge from the schematics shown but it appears that any activities on the 22,000 sq ft infield will be very limited in scale because of the constraints of tbe dominating, elevated, oval track. In fact, all of the palaver about heavy-duty community outreach, greening the building, making the building compatible with the landscaping of the park, etc, etc, smacks heavily of trying put lipstick on the pig. A cycling race track is a cycling race track with very special demands that just won’t work with the standard idea of a recreational Fieldhouse. It may uplift the racers’ spirits but It’s still a pig.
    This track could go anywhere in Brooklyn and doesn’t belong on one of America’s most awesome park sites.

  • Carol

    @bloomy

    At the informational meeting I attended, an audience member said that a good track bike can cost $5000-$10,000. Track cycling may not be an expensive sport if you discount the cost of the facility (something less than $40 million) so the real question is can a velodrome sustain itself on user fees beyond the ten years that the donor has promised to cover? Or will the meager field house have to carry the expenses of a potential white elephant?

  • David on Middagh

    From the Fact Sheet that Bloomy linked to:

    “The structure will respect and preserve the historic view plane from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The roof will be a significant focus of the design process, presenting an improvement over the
    existing view from the Promenade down on the aging storage building.

    “…the facility will help mitigate traffic noise from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in the park.”

    I take this to mean that while not looking down on the Promenade, the new building will be taller than the current one, will be reflecting traffic noise back at the Promenade, and will block a little of the water view from the Promenade. In addition, I’m inclined to agree with Martin L that the velodrome function doesn’t belong on the waterfront.

  • Muskrat

    I agree with those who are wondering about whether this best use of a premium open space. Setting aside all other concerns about traffic, access, expense, views, and other points made above, whether you agree with them or not, perhaps we should step back and consider whether an indoor rec facility of this nature belongs in this location at all. It seems that a better use would be more outdoor open multi-purpose field spaces, with shelter (traditional field house-style) to get out of the weather when necessary, or indoor multi-purpose space, sheltered enough from all but the worst weather. If this is for sport/recreation, such as soccer fields or base/softball or basketball, that would sufficient. A velodrome can go somewhere less choice in terms of views. This is not intended as a NIMBY point of view, just a practical observation.

  • WillowtownCop

    I’m for it if it’s an appropriate venue for roller derby. Bike races sound really boring.

    The parking issue would be solved with neighborhood parking stickers, which would also prevent people who don’t feel like registering their cars where they actually live from parking around here.

  • Jorale-man

    Well said, @Muskrat. I have yet to see the BBP officials really explain why such a specific facility is being installed in this location. If you look at Chelsea Piers, for instance, for all its drawbacks, it does serve a wide range of functions for the community (golf, bowling, batting cages, a gym, etc.). But how many New Yorkers own a bike equipped to ride on a velodrome track? And as @WilltownCop says, how many are thirsting to come watch bike races on a Sunday afternoon?

  • Bette

    Bloomy – no brakes? That seems insane. What if one bike is millimeters away from cutting another bike off? Wouldn’t the bike in back want to tap his brake to avoid this? Didn’t know this about bike racing. The velodrome itself seems nutty. But this no brakes thing seems like something out of a… John Carpenter movie.

  • yoohoo

    Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill residents (among them prominent citizens) have demanded an indoor recreation facility from the get-go while the completion of BBP is pending further NYC and NYS appropriations (no promises in sight). Enter young Mr. Rechnitz with a 40 mill + offer for an indoor facility that must include a race track. I strongly suggest that you inform your elected officials of your opposition.

  • Sceptic

    The “Fieldhouse” masquerades as a “community recreational center” when it really is an immensely ambitous and immensely sepculative attempt to create enough of a user and spectator track-cylcing constituency to pay for annual operating costs which are bound to exceed $1 million a year. The official announcement states that this generous young man’s not-for-profit corporation “believes that track cycling lifts the hopes and spirits of communities all over the world and that New York City deserves both to benefit from this rapidly growing sport AND TO BECOME A NEW WORLD HUB FOR THE SPORT (caps. supp.).” Greg Brooks says that they hope to attract competitive track cyclists from Europe, and that since NYC is closer, to take over from the Los Angeles velodrome as America’s foremost track cycling venue. That the oval inside the elaborate, banked cycling track will be made available to local schools and groups (at fees to be determined) for basketball, volleyball and other floor-sports (summer as well as winter) is intended to attract support from the many park boosters who do wish for one more local indoor gym during winter months. But (unless they enlarge their 200m track to the international standard 250m track) the ‘gym’ floor will be only 15-16,000 sq ft – the same as the already existing 3 sand volleyball courts on Pier 6. Revenue projections for the proposed 250m velodrome outside of Toronto, Canada call for more than 85% of revenues to come from track cycling users and events and concessions, less than 15% from their (larger) gym floor. Clearly the “tail” which wags this dog if Mr. Rechnitz’ dream of a major track cycling venue, not some mostly winter-time community use of the little gym. And when his competitors and spectators flock from as far as Pennsylvania or Vermont, each with their own custom bike in his/her own car or van, the place for parking these 100s and 100s of vehicles will, alas, not have been provided. “Traffic” may be a problem (even when most traffic will come in from Atlantic or Fulton Landing), but it is parking which will overwhelm both the park and the community.