Skeptic Deems Proposed $40M Fieldhouse A ‘Masquerade That Doesn’t Belong In BB Park’

The $40 million, 2,499-seat Fieldhouse/Velodrome proposed for Brooklyn Bridge Park has been personified as a community recreation center, with an indoor bike riding track as its centerpiece. But Peter Flemming, Co-Chair of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Council and a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Park Corp., says the plan that’s been shared with the public is a ruse.

He tells the Brooklyn Eagle that the proposed Fieldhouse is actually “a specialized velodrome masquerading as a community recreation center—and it doesn’t belong in Brooklyn Bridge Park… Painting stripes on a horse doesn’t make it a zebra.”

Flemming says that the Velodrome will primarily serve specialized competitive track cyclists who come from around the world, accompanied by hundreds of vehicles and thousands of spectators, to the detriment of BBP: “It’s a pipe dream. The number of people who really want it you can count on the fingers of your left hand. What is it doing in our park? Why help the city build a huge stadium in a tiny waterfront park for this quaint, obscure, bizarre sport?”

The Eagle explains: “A velodrome is a racing track, banked 45 degrees or more at the curves, for competitive bicycle racing. Competitors ride special fixed-gear bikes without brakes, and must travel at least 16 miles an hour to avoid tipping over. There is only one other indoor velodrome in the United States, the Home Depot Center Velodrome in Carson, California, though there are dozens of outdoor velodromes.”

Brooklyn Bridge Park proponents say the Fieldhouse, backed by founder and chairman Joshua P. Rechnitz, is envisioned as a “flexible public indoor athletic and recreation center” that includes a public boathouse, restrooms and space for the park’s maintenance and operations.

Greg Brooks, executive director of New York City Fieldhouse, argues in the Eagle that the entire community will make use of the facility, and says it will “save the park millions in capital costs. That’s money for maintenance, restrooms, storage for kayaks, all capital costs the park will not have to spend or maintain.”

Regina Myer, President of Brooklyn Bridge Park, adds, “The proposed Fieldhouse will bring park users and the community the all-weather sports and recreation venue that has always been included in the General Project Plan for the park but was unattainable due to financial constraints. We will continue to work with the New York City Field House to address the community’s concerns and ensure that this project adds positively to the park experience.”

There’s much more to the story in the Brooklyn Eagle. See the article here.

(Photo: Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy via McBrooklyn)

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  • Rick

    Opponents are being remarkably narrow-sighted. The fieldhouse could certainly provide other recreational activities, as the air above would provide a fine venue for Quidditch tournaments.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Yes, Velodromes are notorious for attracting unsavory characters into a neighborhood.

    This mentality reminds me of the apprehension by some in Willowtown when Iris Cafe was introduced on Columbia Street. Heaven forbid if their is foot traffic and businesses in the community make a few dollars. I’m sure River Deli and Atlantic Avenue establishments have no objections.

    In case you haven’t noticed, Atlantic Avenue is becoming a pretty impressive dining destination. Love the $1 oysters at Chez Moi Monday – Wednesday from 4PM. Colonie still a favorite and Sauls addition, Red Gravy, is moving along nicely.

    I love BBP and trust them to do the right thing. They surely haven’t let me down yet.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Hate when I type their for there. Learned that in 4th grade and Sister Teresa would kill me if I didn’t note a correction.

  • Bob Sacamano

    There is no place in BBP for a fieldhouse dedicated for competitive cycling. This is a public park and a venue for competitive cycling does not serve the community and users of the park. Let this guy go buy a plot of land and put up the cycle track there. I believe this is a facade for this person to serve his own interest on city property. It would be tragic if a limited purpose field house was constructed on BBP.

  • Monty

    Does anyone know how much of the fieldhouse will be occupied by the velodrome? Will there really be room for anything else? And it the velodrome useful for anything besides track cycling?

  • Wiley E.

    BBP isn’t the ideal location for such a facility. Why not build it on the proposed city park land in Greenpoint, or Bed-Stuy that is underfunded?

    They have ample space for parking there, and the communities would get the city park development – which the city falsely promised to the communities when the city approved the hi-rise commercial development at those sites.

    A velodrome is a bad fit at BBP. It would be a great fit in Greenpoint or Bed-Stuy, and it is really needed there.

  • Wiley E.

    Karl, I think your faith in the BBP is unfounded. From what I have heard, none of the residents who bought into 360 Furman Street were told that the BBP always planned to build 2 30-story hi-rises just south of that building. Their views and sunlight will be blocked.

    When I asked the question (if the residents had been told of the planned development south of 360 Furman Street) at a community forum at St. Francis college a couple of years ago, I didn’t get an answer. But there was a lot of squirming at the BBP table.

  • John Q

    Looks like the perfect place to me! Kids, teens and active adults desperately need 12 month a year indoor recreation opportunities… something that is seriously lacking from the “world class’ Brooklyn Bridge Park

  • Rick

    A waterfront location is obviously not a component necessary for successful competitive cycling. But even if it were, there are so many other possible locations.

    I just did a quick Google search, and as of 2009 “The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway project area now spans 14 miles of Brooklyn waterfront, from Sunset Park to Newtown Creek in Greenpoint”.

    Surely there a better location for the fieldhouse somewhere along such a long stretch of often deserted or underutilized real estate. Why shoehorn it into a relatively small park whose footprint is already pretty full of active-sport related sites?

  • Eric

    I don’t want BBP to become a menagerie of ill-suited ornaments of rich persons’ whims, such as the carousel. The park should serve the entire community.

  • Mr. Crusty

    The Carousel doesn’t serve the community? it is a rich person’s whim? huh?

  • Reggie

    Bob makes a smart observation that I have not read anyone else say previously. If Rechnitz is already in for $50M–$40M in design and construction plus another 10 for operation–how much more would it cost him to just buy his own damn piece of land?

    Wiley, your comment doesn’t make any sense. BBP wasn’t the sponsor of the conversion of 360 Furman, so why should they have an answer for what the offering plan or sales people were saying about the two buildings planned to the south.

    Monty and John, I think you need to read the Eagle article. The whole point of Fleming’s comments is, net of the track and stadium seating, there is not enough year-round recreation space to make this project a real public benefit.

  • BB Park Advocate

    Flemming raises very valid points about the likelihood this velodrome will provide anything other than a huge edifice, occupying some valuable and scarce park real estate, dedicated to a tiny community of track cyclists. Although the specs for the velodrome suggest it could be used for other sports, much of this is probably PR to buy support within the BBP leadership. With more and more of that scarce park footprint being scooped up by voracious real estate developers, the wisdom of allocating a huge portion of the little remaining footprint left for park users to a facility with such a minimal value-add to the vast majority of these park users must be considered vey carefully. That is not to say the velodrome should be dismissed outright. The disastrous experience at McCarren Park shows us how choice made solely on the basis of attracting huge volumes of users can easily destroy the park “culture” we seek to engender.

  • Bloomy

    I want the Velodrome, and based on this board sadly think I am the only one. Is there anyone out there that has been to a race and can say they don’t like the event? I doubt it, but if so please speak up.

    And no offense to all the families out there, but as Eric said, I get no value out of the Carousel (and it has THE prime location). A velodrome is for a specific segment of the population, but so is the Carousel.

    In reality anyone can use a velodrome. Yes you need a specific bike, but you can get a new one for as little as $300. Every race event I have been to has had a few kids event. Just because people are not familiar with it, does not mean it will not get a good amount of use.

    In terms of pakring, I don’t understand what the issue is. There IS NO PARKING already in the neighborhood. It took me 35 minutes to find a spot on Sat. It is not like it is going to get worse. If there is a large event there will most likely be off site parking (maybe near the Barley’s Center) and people can subway it over, or they can run a tram.

    To answer some other questions.
    1) No the track itself can not be used for anything else, even roller derby.
    2) The empty center of the track can be setup for volleyball, basketball, etc.
    3)The middle can not be used while racing is happening. (you don’t want balls flying at bikes) The race participants work on the bikes and get ready in the center.

    Finally, racing was hugely popular in NYC back in the day. There is an outdoor velodrome in Kissena park in Queens. The Madison, a race style, was named so because the event used to take place in the original Madison Square Garden.

    The planning of the park in never going to make everyone happy. But just be open to something new and different, it could turn out to be a good thing. :)

  • Park Lover

    BBP seems to be selling itself to the highest bidders– essentially privatizing public space. What’s next– Ratner buying the end of Pier 6 for overflow parking for his Arena?

  • sue

    This is a wonderful opportunity for the community and should be developed. It will make us a real sports mecca and give us real recreation. I hear Garden Place will have angled parking for the professional racers. After all this is a park for all the city not just some Brooklyn Heights types.

  • Jorale-man

    Yes, I smelled PR spin the minute this project was announced a few months ago (as a journalist by trade that’s partly what I’m trained to look for). The way the BBP announced the $40M donation in a screaming press release above of the nitty gritty of what this really is (a rich guy’s toy) showed that they were trying to put a happy face on it.

    I think there’s a larger question at stake that applies not just to this development but the park as a whole: must a park be all about nonstop sports, food, entertainment and “activities?” Or can’t it just have simple lawns where people can relax and do as they please? I’d much rather they just plant some grass and trees here than a velodrome.

  • carol

    The term “field house” is misleading. This will be a velodrome with some space inside the oval track. Field house sports – basketball, volleyball, tennis, fencing, gymnastics, etc do not require any special infrastructure beyond a good maple floor.
    The main event here – 200 meter cycling track – has very specific requirements and cannot be used for anything else. It is the driver of how much field will be in the house; and I fear that the public will not get any where near the amount of indoor recreation space it might have imagined.
    This ‘gift’ gets the Bloomberg administration off the hook of having to fund the part of the park where the velodrome is planned.
    Is that a good enough reason to do do this? The people will know more when they see what the plan looks like, see its size and how much field house the public gets from Mr. Rechnitz.

  • Still here


    Velodrome bikers form the NYC area met with several community groups and they would disagree with your assertion that anyone can do this. They claim that there are maybe 100’s in the NYC area that can.

    They stated that the velodrome would be used for training for serious bikers (like themselves) and to mount regular competitions attracting other afficianados of the sport. And they would love this facility.

    They claimed that even folks that have credentials would have to be vetted by those that run the drome before they were permitted to ride.

    They dismissed its alternative use for rollerball. But the nature of the limited set of qualified riders and the competitions make it seem like a rollerball like entertainment. Could be fun to watch. But it is not meant for the general public usage.

    These days, such private largess seems essential for building parks. Regardless of how one feels about the Jane Walentas Carousel, or even the coming Walentas rebuild of Saint Anns in the Tobacco Warehouse, both private fundings of park projects, these are quality facilities that are, or will be, widely used and appreciated by the public. So why sell off another piece of the park to a wealthy and well meaning provider for a large facility with such limited use and appeal?

  • Elmer Fudd

    Jorale-man, the real estate developers can’t make money on grass and trees planted at BBP.

  • Gatornyc

    Contrary to much of the moaning and NIBYism expressed by most, this is actually pretty simple. BBP will either get a Fieldhouse which has a primary use as velodrome or it will get a manintance and operations bulidng (in other words a building without public use). Considering the City’s finances, it is not going to fnance a fieldhouse of any kind. Indeed, many parks in the CIty are having their funding cut or eliminated. The fieldhouse was in the original plans for BBP but cut because of funding issues.

    I will take a velodrome that will also be able to be used for indoor tennis, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, etc. any day than get nothing. The Fieldhouse will also provide a public boathouse, public restrooms, and the maintenance and operations space for BBPC. And the Fieldhouse is fully funded by a donor which frees up capital funds for other construction of the park and lessens the maintenance burden.

    So like it or not the choice is Fieldhouse or maintenance/operations buliding. Seems like a no brainer to me. Of course, people apparently just want to look at this gift horse in the mouth.

  • Neighbor Hood

    @GGatornyc- and what happens when his largesse runs out and we need to find alternate funding for this white elephant? As I understand it he is not committing to indefinite funding. I’m tired of this supposed public park being used to forced private projects that would otherwise never be approved by the residents down our throats as yet another “well it’s better than nothing” and “we need it to keep the park going” That was the whole scam of this self financing” park scam to begin with…to force private development projects that otherwise would both be unpopular with locals and not attractive to them financially until millions of our tax dollars were spent “landscaping” the area for them. Why not a dressage exhibition space?

  • Dean Collins

    I think it’s a bad idea for it to be put there….but only because I want a bigger boating marina area :)

    Seriously though if people think this is going to benefit more than a few hundred people they are kidding themselves.

    I think if this guy wants it….he should buy tha land to put it on where there is parking to match.

  • David on Middagh

    Yes, after ten years, operating costs are no longer guaranteed. Then, wouldn’t the velodrome be in competition with the other park features?

    Also, any increase in height to the current building will erode the view from the Promenade.

    That’s two ways in which the velodrome isn’t free.

  • David on Middagh


    Wasn’t the proposed Olympic velodrome going to be in the South Bronx?

  • PromGal

    Building a velidrome, which is by definition, a professional race track for bicycles for a few hundred users capable of that level competition is ridiculous. It will add nothing to the community, and is unusable by 98% of the people.

    Jane’s Carousel was bought and restored by Jane Walentas and given as a gift to the City of New York. We were just down there last weekend and it is truly magnificent!
    The carousel is an American art form, and there are very few that remain. They are usually dismantled and sold piecemeal at auction. A high quality carousel horse costs upwards of $100,000. By buying the entire carousel, Jane saved an important piece of Americana from winding up destroyed.

    Brooklyn is privileged to have this intact carousel, meticulously restored to it’s original grandeur. It is a museum piece that can be admired and enjoyed by all, young and old alike. It is an historical attraction, and family friendly.

    I don’t see how the velodrome monstrosity and the carousel can be compared.

    JUST MY 2¢

  • Gerry

    I would rather see an indoor pool a state of the art aquatics center opens very early and through evening hours with reasonable admission fees rather than this field house velodrome indoor bike track idea.

  • David on Middagh

    If I had $40mm+, I wouldn’t build *my* velodrome in the floodplain.

    Or my hotel.

  • Winstion Smith

    Granted, the carousel may be beautiful and historic but It isn’t the carousel itself that I, and others, have an issue with. It is its location and the reason behind how it got to be there that is the problem. The carousel was shoved upon the public without due process. It was placed in a ugly enclosure that ruined the beauty and serenity of a special piece of parkland, a tree was killed. All that for the vanity and convenience of a billionaire and his wife. So in that light it is comparable to the velodrome.

  • whowhawhen

    I’ve only seen it mentioned once, but wouldn’t this be a precursor to pitching the olympics for NYC again? And you think you’ve got traffic problems now.