Philanthropist Donates $40M to B’klyn Bridge Park

April 19, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Will Be Used for Year-Round Recreation Facility

By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN WATERFRONT — Philanthropist Joshua Rechnitz, founder and chairman of the nonprofit group New York City Fieldhouse Inc., has offered to underwrite a year-round, multi-use indoor recreation facility near Pier 5, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation  (BBPC) revealed yesterday.

The facility is estimated to cost $40 million, one of the largest donations ever made to a New York City Park, according to BBPC.

According to a spokeswoman for BBPC, this is not the same as the “recreation bubble” that was envisioned for Pier 5, but was burst last year when potential developers failed to respond to an RFP for the project. “The bubble would have been on the pier itself, but this would be on the ‘upland’ of the pier [the land adjoining the pier] on Furman Street,” she said.

However, she added, it will contain features that the nearby community had wanted, specifically year-round recreation. She added that neighborhood meetings will be scheduled in Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens, Sunset Park, Brooklyn Heights/Dumbo and Red Hook to get the community’s input.

The Fieldhouse, as it will be known, will include a 115,000-square-foot indoor recreation center with a 200-meter inclined track for cycling and a 22,000-square-foot infield for high school, collegiate, club-level and professional sporting events, such as basketball, tennis, track cycling, volleyball and gymnastics. It also will include amenities such as a public boathouse, public restrooms, and maintenance and operations space for BBPC.

The site is currently occupied by a rundown-looking warehouse used by Brooklyn Bridge Park for storage and construction. NYC Fieldhouse has selected Thomas Phifer and Partners to design the Fieldhouse. The firm’s founding principal has received the American Institute of Architects-New York’s 2004 Medal of Honor and is a member of the National Academy of Design, among other honors.

As for Rechnitz himself, a search of the web shows that like some wealthy people, he does not seem to have much of a “footprint” other than a few mentions of family matters and a reference to his campaign contributions. His Fieldhouse organization does not have a listed phone number. However, the BBPC press release refers to him as a “competitive amateur cyclist and a track cycling enthusiast.”

Local officials were quick to praise the $40 million donation. State Sen. Daniel Squadron said it was one of “two pieces of great news for Brooklyn Bridge Park and the entire city regarding Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

The other “piece of great news” was that the BBPC board voted to approve $66.5 million in funding for the city for further development of the park.

Last year, during the city’s budget process, the Bloomberg administration attempted to cut $11 million of the park’s appropriation. However, following an agreement between the city, Squadron and Assemblywoman Joan Millman last year, the city restored its full commitment. The Park Corporation’s vote finalized that process.

Squadron also said he was looking forward to the community meetings on the fieldhouse. “We look forward to participating in a robust and open community conversation about how this donation can make such year-round, active and accessible recreation a reality in Brooklyn Bridge Park,” he said.

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