Controversy Continues Over Brooklyn Bridge Park Fieldhouse

Design for the 115,000-square-foot cycling & recreational Fieldhouse planned near Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5 has been tweaked, with additional space for sports other than cycling and fewer spectator seats for cycling events, but critics still want to apply the brakes to the controversial project.

Greg Brooks, executive director of New York City Fieldhouse Inc., insists there is “demand and a need for indoor recreation space,” in the latest story about the facility in The New York Daily News. But Peter Flemming, co-chair of the BBP Community Council, believes, “No matter how they say it, this is first & foremost a cycling arena. It’s a bad thing for this park.”

The cycling track will be elevated on support beams to increase rec space to 25,000 square feet, which will allow more simultaneous activities, Brooks says. There will also be moveable equipment for basketball, volleyball, tennis and badminton; with fencing, martial arts, kickball and gymnastics also slated. Additionally, plans called for 2,499 fixed spectator seats and up to 3,300 with temporary seating and standing room. That number has been sliced to 1,200 fixed, and up to 2,000 with temp seating and standing room.

But because of its lack of parking, Brooklyn Heights Association president Jane McGroarty fears traffic snarls: “It’s a potential nightmare,” she says, adding that fans driving in from New England and the mid-Atlantic states will create havoc in the neighborhood. She also claims rec-center fees will be a “challenge for working people with children in Brooklyn.”

As previously reported, the fieldhouse is being funded with a $40 million donation from Joshua Rechnitz. The BBP board and the state must vote to approve the project before the Fieldhouse proceeds.

(Photo: NY Daily News)

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  • sue

    Now the BHA is hiding behind fees for recreation for working families-what a joke. Maybe the casino can make a big donation to lower them.. OLD BROOKLYN HEIGHTS just doesn’t want outsiders in the community.. This is not new news

  • Bosko

    Anyone ever considered swimming pool in in BB park? Not a bad idea!

  • Heightser

    There is a swimming pool in BBP.

    There is no controversy. Just a few cranky NIMBYs worried about losing their free parking.

  • stuart

    So many nasty people.
    People who don’t do anything community-minded and then
    write vile things about those who do.

  • Jorale-man

    There are several issues that need to be separated when talking about the velodrome (interesting, incidentally, how it’s being re-branded as a “fieldhouse” now).

    There’s the question of whether this belongs in a public park, particularly one that commands views of the bridges and skyline and is planned as a crown jewel of the borough. There’s the question of whether parking and traffic is being adequately addressed in an area where it’s already limited. Then there’s the question of whether this serves a broader need for indoor recreation — and whether that could be served effectively in other locations.

    These are all issues worth having a vigorous debate over (even in blog comments). It’s not a question of being a “Nimby” to ask the tough questions to determine whether this is really best for the park (“Nimby” generally refers to things like prisons and garbage dumps anyway).

    I still maintain that a velodrome doesn’t really belong in a public park in a borough where outdoor park space is so limited to begin with. But there can certainly there be a healthy, civilized debate over it.

  • Scrambler

    We do not need a velodrome in Brooklyn Heights. Who in the hell’s idea was this anyway?

  • Greedo

    Very well said Jorale-man.

  • DG

    Five tennis courts can only be used by a maximum of 10 people every hour (20 if they’re playing doubles). But those five tennis courts would take up a lot of space. Yet no one would say that tennis doesn’t belong in a public park because park space is limited. In fact, if tennis courts were being built here, I doubt very few people would object at all, even though only 80 to 100 people could use the tennis facilities every day.

    Parking is a separate issue, I agree. But I don’t think this building’s future should rise or fall on whether or not we’re maximizing the space available here. Lots of park space or recreational facilities across the city would not make the cut if that’s the standard.

    So when we say “We don’t need a velodrome in Brooklyn Heights” we’re really just saying “I” don’t need one. I don’t need tennis courts, because I don’t play tennis. There are public golf courses in New York City, lawn bowling areas in Central Park, and other spots dedicated to sports I don’t play. I don’t play baseball, and could argue that that much space for just 18 people to play a game for two hours is a waste of resources. But I recognize that other people play tennis, baseball, golf, or enjoy lawn bowling and I’m okay with space being given over to those activities. I see no difference at BBP, especially because this will be a multi-use facility and do wonder whether there isn’t simply some reflexive anti-bike sentiment that’s driving the minor opposition expressed here.

  • Wiley E.

    If they put the bike track on stilts, how much taller will the new building have to be? Probably a lot taller than the existing structure.

    Build the velodrome somewhere else, where it will fit, and be regulation sized.

  • David on Middagh

    DG, I’m pro-bicycling and pro-tennis, but I’m not advocating for a velodrome or tennis courts in this park. Both the track & the courts would take up too much room for the people served. (I’m pro-tennis only because I grew up in a town with the space for courts, and I’m pro-biking except for the stadium-sport aspect; I dislike stadiums.)

  • signoff

    David is right. I love tennis. But it would be a stupid use of public park space on the waterfront (as beautiful a place as that would be to play!). Same with a fraggin’ indoor bike course.

    We might as well build a dressage rink.

  • Arch Stanton

    No cycling, no tennis no indoor sports… So then what is appropriate use of the space?

  • Bloomy

    I still fail to see the parking concerns. It is not like there are open spaces in the neighborhood at any time of day. Even if people wanted to park, they are not going to be able to easily find a spot. People will quickly learn that and find another option.

    The new Barclay’s center only has 550 official parking spaces for a stadium with a capacity of 18,000. People take mass transit. This is NYC, there are many other option besides driving. BUT if someone days drive there are 4 garages around the neighborhood they could park in.

  • Martin L

    This is a clear case of putting lipstick on a Velodrome. Call it something else. Monkey around with the space allocations. Add exciting sports like Double Dutch. How about tiddly winks and hop scotch?
    It’s still a 90% Velodrome of severely limited interest and a horrific misallocation of one of the City’s most desirable views.

  • Boerum Bill

    Oh, the traffic! The undesirables treading on the ancient Belgian blocks! ‘Twill be a Joralemonstrosity, indeed!

  • Jorale-man

    One other thing that I’d encourage people to look at closely: If you view the interactive map on the BBP website you’ll see that the space for the velodrome was once designated as “natural elements” – grass, trees, etc. There’s a small maintenance shed there but it’s not nearly as big as the proposed space for the velodrome:

    Here’s the original plan, sans velodrome:

    And here’s a page with the revised plan. The white space is where the facility will live:

    Again, it’s just to be aware of how large the footprint of the complex will be.

  • bagel boy

    The bike ring has got to be the most ridiculous and stupid idea I have ever heard. The space has trillion dollar views. Why on earth would anyone put up a stadium. We already have one in queens that no one uses. Put the bike ring on top of the staten island dump. Lots of parking there.

  • gatornyc

    Jorale-mon, both links show the same thing in a different format. Both show the existing one story building which has been part of the plan as a maintenance buiilding and boathouse since the original indoor recreation facility was eliminated for budgetary reasons.

    Raising questions is fine, but opposition based on questions, as opposed to answers, is silly. Space being wasted for views? This is probably the worst complaint. Every pier and most upland space already serves to provide access to the views.

    As for parking, this is the old saw of BH NIMBYism. Don’t build it here because we don’t have enough parking. If people can’t park they won’t come or they will use alternative means (which are abundant in the area).

    Don’t like/want a velodrome? Well, as already pointed out, this isn’t what any individual wants, its about the park/community. We either get a velodrome that can also serve as a indoor recreation facility or we get a maintenance building/boathouse (unless someone else is going to make a $40 million contribution). I’ll take the former in spades and say thank you.

  • dog lover

    Thought the whole idea was OUTDOOR recreation. Do any of you really understand that being against a Velodrome is not anti-cycling? Bikes used in a Velodrome cannot be ridden on city streets so they have to be transported in by some other kind of vehicle. Why the Queens Velodrome isn’t put to use, I can’t remember. This “gift” is by one man who wants his own Velodrome and has nothing to do with community needs, wants nor desires. It is the antithesis of community. And DG how can you even compare a Velodrome with a golf course, tennis courts, etc? You are getting your apples and oranges all mixed up.

  • sue

    Parking I agree is a non issue. Have the velodrome-fieldhouse work
    out parking discounts with local garages.. A shuttle down to the waterfront perhaps..This is not a park owned by Brooklyn Heights . It attracts people from all over the city and many tourists. I support the velodrome-fieldhouse , the indoor recreation. It should be fun.

  • DG

    Well, dog, if your standard is that we must maximize the way the space is used for the good of the most people, then tennis courts and golf courses don’t fit the bill since so few people can use them at any given time.

  • bagel boy

    The fact that most people have to google velodrome speaks volumes. It is a useless folly and a stupid waste of prime space to build a stadium of any sort in the park. Especially a bike ring. I don’t give a crap if some rich eccentric wants a velodrome in bh on arguably the best piece of real estate on earth. He can take his money and stuff it. Better yet donate it to a worthy cause. Plenty of people are hungry tonight. The cost of the bike ring could give a lot of people some food and shelter in a time of need.
    This donor seems like some sort of Willy Wonka wannabe.

    Listen up Willy.

    Scrap this nonsense and go to Queens to the existing velodrome that no one uses or even heard of. Lots of parking cause NO one is there. Get it?

  • Heightser

    Actually the reason there’s so much parking at the Queens velodrome is because most of the velodrome spectators come on bikes. I was there recently and it was hard to find a spot on the fence to lock up to.

    When the parking lot is full it’s because of the people using the baseball field right next to it. The people who play baseball carry a lot of equipment – bats, balls, bases, helmets, etc. They use their cars to get there!

  • E

    This velodrome idea is really numb-brained.
    I agree with Wiley — a key question is how much taller this thing will get to accommodate the fact that the track is being raised up. Will it block views from the Promenade?

  • Heightser

    E: the answer is no.

  • Sports Fan

    Why not tennis courts? The Hudson River Park has them, 20 feet from the waterfront. They are in constant demand, so there is clearly interest in them. And, if we built 6 courts, at a cost of $15,000.00 per court, the entire project could be completed for the very modest outlay of $90,000.00 plus whatever other infrastructure expenditure is required. This is a no-brainer from a cost/benefit perspective. We might even put in place a program where memberships could be sold, similar to the Parks Department tennis memberships, however, restrict the sale of memberships to residents in Brooklyn Heights. This would address the legitimate concern of attracting too many outsiders into area, therefor no parking issues. Comments?

  • David on Middagh

    E wrote: “Will it block views from the Promenade?”

    Heightser replied: “the answer is no.”

    Every added inch of height, width, or depth will block the view more than the current building already does. Since a velodrome would be bigger, then yes, more view of the river will be blocked from the Promenade.

  • Heightser

    David, that makes no sense. The promenade towers above the proposed plans for this building. You’re making it sound as if it will block views of Manhattan and the harbor, which is not at all true.

    Look at the plans and get your facts straight. All this endless speculation would be fine if there weren’t actual answers to some of these questions.

  • David on Middagh

    The current building already blocks (a little bit) of the water view. A larger building would be a further encroachment. Don’t forget that the planned hotel would also block views (just as did the warehouses that used to be there). We shouldn’t be cavalier about this nibbling away.

  • E

    I didn’t mean blocks one iota of view if you happen to be standing in exactly the right place — I meant looms in front of the promenade. David on Middagh’s answer is reassuring to me if correct. Where are the plans to be looked at?

    I still don’t see the point of a velodrome. If there are basketball courts etc. inside for winter use, I guess that would be nice.