Brooklyn Bridge Park Field House Fosters More Criticism & Doubt

This time it’s The New York Times that’s weighing in on the increasingly controversial $40 million Field House proposed for Brooklyn Bridge Park.

In a lengthy story titled “A $40 Million Gift, a Proposed Bike Arena and Now Skepticism in Brooklyn,” writer Lisa Foderaro ventures that Joshua P. Rechnitz’s pledge to build a field house in BBP—the largest single gift in the history of New York City’s parks system—was originally “heralded as a much-needed boost for the 85-acre waterfront park.

“But attention quickly turned to the centerpiece of the plan: a velodrome with a 200-meter inclined indoor cycling track and stadium seating for almost 2,500 spectators. Now, some parkgoers, neighborhood activists and community leaders are looking that donation in the mouth and saying, Thanks, but no thanks.”

Leaders of community groups in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO are loaded with questions specifically regarding the track, the Times says, worried about the building’s size (with a footprint of up to 70,000 square feet, it is larger than a football field) “and the traffic it might draw to the cobbled streets of Brooklyn Heights, while pointing out the relatively obscure nature of track cycling, in which riders on fixed-gear bicycles without brakes travel at terrific speeds around curves banked at 45-degree angles.”

The NYT adds that some also doubt Rechnitz’s motives: a 47-year-old resident of the Upper West Side, he is an avid amateur track cyclist who has tried and failed to bring a velodrome to the city. Now, they say he is buying the track he wants on public land.

Joan Zimmerman, president of the Fulton Ferry Landing Association, tells the NYT she is concerned that the park was already being nibbled away by structures, and “putting this large of a building at one of the narrower necks of the park raises the question of what’s more important: green space or buildings?”

But NYS assemblymember Joan Millman, who represents Brooklyn Heights and the area containing the park, supports it, in part because it would replace a rundown storage building near Pier 5 that she calls an “eyesore.” And Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp., which governs land use in the park, emphasizes that “it’s not taking away any green space; the plan always called for that location to be a maintenance building.”

In any case, the Field House has a long way to go before it becomes a reality in BBP. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation must still approve the plan, which will also require state approval. There’s much more to read in the Times piece here.


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  • Evan

    Nimbys!!

  • In the Heights

    Wait. If it’s an obscure sport, how can they be worried about huge crowds? Fantastic NIMBY logic!

  • Rick

    I’m not clear, if the site was always to include a maintenance building, where does the maintenance building go if the Fieldhouse were to be constructed?

    Perhaps the only relevant nimby in this case is “Not Including Maintenance Building, Yes”?

  • Still here

    The fundemental question is how will this facility support the kinds of activities sought by those in the community who wanted indoor receation(a real field house, if you will) in the first place? The development of a Chealsea Piers-like complex originally envisaged has been abandoned due to complexity and costs. After several presentations of the velodrome I still don’t get it. What community recreation are they really getting out of this?

  • Boba Fett

    Take his financial support, let him build his toy, and then when he no longer needs the space assume it for alternate use. Build the park!

  • stuart

    The community requested many things in the park but never a velodrome. I understand that these bikes are not good to ride on the street so people need to transport them in cars and trucks to the racing site. Seems a bit daft. If every millionaire wants to do his or her thing in the park, a carousel here, a velodrome there, It’s going to be a pretty built up park.

  • A Neighbor

    Rich boy’s toy does not need to be in a park. Brooklyn is a big place with lots of welcoming industrial spaces. We don’t, howevet, have a lot of green around here.

    As John Lindsay once noted, if every building proposed for Central Park had been built, there would be no park left.

  • Monty

    I don’t see how this is remotely a NIMBY situation. That usually refers to moving unsavory, but necessary infrastructure (like a dump or a prison) to a poor neighborhood. The argument here is that proposed construction is simply not going to be useful to enough people anywhere.

    I think where the argument does go astray is asking what this community wants. This park is too big to be considered the private property of Brooklyn Heights. It’s a destination park. It should appeal to all New Yorkers without infringing too heavily on the local residents. A more general purpose gym would be far more valuable. If that’s not feasible, then I’d rather have greenspace than a stadium for a sport that doesn’t even get airtime during the Olympics due to public disinterest.

  • Rick

    @ A Neighbor
    Here, here.

    It’s not that those kind or recreational opportunities shouldn’t be built in New York City. Just not in this park.

    Some have said this is a case of NIMBY. But they are missing the point – this is a very unique site, both for New York City and for the world. The combination of the skyline, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge and the harbor and East River combine to make this the urban equivalent of the Grand Canyon! And yes, if allowed, developers would salivate at the prospect of a hotel on the edge of the Grand Canyon, but obviously they’re not allowed.

    So it is a shame that such things are being allowed on such a unique site. The velodrome is just one more inappropriate building, and to add insult to injury, the enclosed space wouldn’t even benefit from the view!

    And while it may be true that a maintenance building is planned at that location if no velodrome is built, that begs the question “Why there?”. If a maintenance building is required, couldn’t it be moved away from the most narrow section of the park and “grouped” with other less park-friendly structures?

  • Neighbor Hodd

    I love the missuse of “NIMBY” by some folks. Be nice if they knew what the hell it meant before they throw it at every argument they have that they can’t make a case for.
    @Rick- well said. It’s so obvious it’s mind boggling you would even have to explain it.
    @intheheights- yes it’s “obscure” in the sense that it ill serves the larger portion of the community. It WILL bring in traffic in that it is a spectator sport venue. BOTH are good reasons it doesn’t belong in the park.
    Nice to see people are starting to realize what a scam this is.

  • Once Is Enough

    Neighbor Hodd: Why did you find it necessary to repeat the exact same point about NIMBY already articulated by Monty, and already repeated by Rick?

  • Neighbor Hood

    @One IS Enough (that’s a catchy handle btw..do you assume a different alias for every comment?)
    I didn’t realize we were limited to one point per thread. Isn’t it helpful to see how many people feel a certain way on a topic?
    Is it the reptition or the point of view we are expressing that you object to?e
    PS. I love the missuse of “NIMBY” by some folks. Be nice if they knew what the hell it meant before they throw it at every argument they have that they can’t make a case for.

  • Jorale-man

    I thought the final quote in the article was a sensible one. Why not build it in the space where the old velodrome was in Queens, where there is parking and quick highway access? It’s probably also closer to the Upper West Side, so this guy can meet his cycling buddies there quicker.

  • carol

    If the surrounding communities were NIMBYs, Brooklyn Bridge Park would have never happened. Many people gave many hours to develop a waterfront park for everyone – not just the adjoining communities. When people wonder how much indoor recreation will be in the velodrome (field house) or where spectators and contestants will park or what will happen if the entity cannot support itself after the first ten years, this is not NIMBYism – it’s being responsible stewards of public space.
    I understand that the Mayor wants Brooklyn Bridge Park to be his legacy and wants it all finished or funded. But that doesn’t mean that citizens and civic associations shouldn’t have questions or opinions.

  • pulum

    What’s with the repeated references to the carousel as a rich man’s toy? I mean, jesus, it’s a really nice addition to a *park*. How is a carousel out of place in a park? For kids to ride on? In a park? Park.

  • blehndor

    Agree with everyone opposed to the velodrome. What’s confusing about this? Why on earth would anyone want this ridiculous waste of space on such important park land? Let’s get some damn tennis courts and other indoor sports facilities. Or, really, anything else.

  • stuart

    the carousel in that location was a mistake. It would have been far nicer to build an open gazebo where people could sit and where occasionally there could be an informal concert. The carousel is too-much a showpiece for such a small area. It does not even look good from the other side of the river. Alas, the donor also gave heavy dollars to re-do the entire park’s irrigation and drainage systems and who knows what else? So how could they say no?
    Bloomberg’s NY. The billionaires are in your face like never before.

  • sue

    This meets the request for indoor recreation..It is not up to Brooklyn Heights to decide. People use parking lots for the other amenities
    why not this one.. I smell snobbery here. Actually this sport is unique and should add to the Brooklyn story and be good for the Borough

  • blehndor

    Yes, not wanting the cycling equivalent of dressage in Brooklyn Bridge Park is snobbery.

  • stuart

    I have noticed that being a resident of Brooklyn Heights and having an opinion is not terribly popular in blogosphere.

  • BH rez

    What does the fact that the sport is obscure have to do with anything? We have tennis courts that can only be used by two people at a time yet they eat up a lot of space that could otherwise be used by dozens of people for picnics and other outdoor activities.

    There may be a reason to oppose a building here–although I don’t see it since there’s already a building here–but the fact that it will house an obscure sport seems like a bad argument to make.

    Maybe part of the reason people are so quick to use the NIMBY label is that opponents don’t always grasp onto the best arguments to articulate their position.

  • stuart

    my point of view is very simple. That hideous brick building should be demolished like the hideous metal pier buildings were demolished. Neither belong in a beautiful new park.

  • Math Major

    One point few people seem to realize is that the Velodrone building will be at least 4 times the size of the existing building!

    And can anyone tell me why a windowless building is going on a site with some of the best views in all of NYC?!?

  • Neighbor Hood

    I think @sue’s argument is quite definitive.
    We are snobs.
    We should not have a voice in what happens in our neighborhood.
    The park is a parking lot that is open for whatever wealthy person wants to build there.
    The Velodrome will “add to the Brooklyn story”.
    (because one of the most unique, and valuable parcels of land with views available nowhere else in the world, needs a huge brick box with an inclined fixed gear racing bike track to put us on the map).
    Did I miss anything?
    Oh yeah…we should all be incredibly grateful to the city and thank them for their beneficence. We are mere tax paying residents. How dare we ask logical, practical questions about the use of the park land that will have real world implications on our lives, of our elected representatives?
    Did I mention, we are snobs?

  • Andrew Porter

    I think the park should return to its original use: railroad yards and tracks, and warehouses. This would benefit industry, move freight around to those industries still in DUMBO, Red Hook and other points, and bring more money in than the park does. While we’re at it, I miss those Gran Columbiana freighters, full of coffee beans and cocaine.

  • Willowtowncop

    I don’t understand why people feel like they must be entertained at all times. They can’t take a 30 min train ride without playing an inane game or watching a video or reading a stupid newspaper – and apparently they can’t build a park that’s not essentially a playground for “adults.” I think it should be nothing but grass, trees, a few paths and a few benches. God forbid people might be forced to be quiet with their own thoughts in a relaxing space. No – we must have volleyball and kayaks and a merry go round and a stupid bicycle track and movies.

  • David on Middagh

    Willowtowncop, at least kayaking and volleyball keep the citizenry lissome and strong. The movies don’t require a permanent building and happen after dark, when fewer people use the park anyway. I agree that the bicycle track would be wasteful. And, tho’ tennis is about the only sport I care anything about, I agree with whoever noted that tennis courts take up too much space for the number of people they serve.

  • searoad

    I agree with David on Middagh…”too much space for the number of people (this sport) serves..Besides my city

  • Mr. Crusty

    WillowtownCop I see you have preferences for just trees and grass. Ok. Others have a different viewpoint of how the 87 acres should serve the needs of New Yorkers. I guess that is what makes the world go around. But you have a problem with people reading newspapers? That is just some mindless entertainment to you? Interesting perspective. Again everyone has opinions.

  • Willowtowncop

    I don’t have a “problem” with anybody. I also read newspapers – even the Post, which is entirely ridiculous entertainment. I just think its interesting that people today can’t seem to spend 30 minutes looking out a window or sitting in a park without their face in some gadget or a trashy rag, paying no attention whatsoever to their surroundings, unable to be alone with their thoughts. It’s a real problem in the police department – a rookie gets a fixed post and is told to stand here for 8 hours, don’t let anyone in without ID, no newspapers, no phone – and they can’t handle it. It’s the easiest job in the world, anyone on earth should be able to do it, and every time you walk by, he’s engrossed in his phone, not paying attention. It was not like that 30 years ago. People also didn’t bring the entire toy store with them to a restaurant because their child couldn’t sit for a couple of hours without screaming, either.

    As for the playground vs. green space, fine, have your playground, but have the lawn and the trees, too. This park is fast becoming nothing but a playground with no green space at all, and now they want to put a giant ugly building in the middle of it? It’s going to be only for the people who want all that crap, with no room left for the people who don’t.