OPINION: Just how ‘tiny’ is Brooklyn Bridge Park; is there room for a velodrome?

August 1, 2012 By Henrik Krogius Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Peter Flemming has been one of the staunchest supporters of Brooklyn Bridge Park from the inception of the idea. He recognized early that the park could not depend on public funds, but had to find a way to support itself through privately generated income, and he became an advocate of housing in the park. On most park issues we have been in accord with his views.

Therefore his objections to the proposed velodrome, or Fieldhouse, need to be considered. Flemming isn’t just an anxious neighbor of the park, he is co-chair of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Council and a member of the park’s Citizen Advisory Council. As Mary Frost reported last week, Flemming says the 2,499-seat bicycle racing facility will serve mainly specialized competitive cyclists from around the world, rather than serving Brooklyn communities. He asks why the park should help the city build one of only two such arenas in the country “in a tiny waterfront park for this quaint, obscure, bizarre sport?”

Now, Flemming may have a point in his further criticism that the velodrome’s infield area is insufficient for such envisioned local activities as tennis, basketball and volleyball. Proponents of the facility insist that the space can serve such needs and also provide for school physical education programs as well as pilates classes and yoga. They say they will try to ensure that the design accommodates such activities, and they point out that the $40-million gift from bicycle racing enthusiast Joshua P. Rechnitz, plus his guarantee of maintenance for the first ten years, makes possible a long hoped for indoor facility that the park otherwise wouldn’t have funding for.

It remains to be learned just what the design will look like, and what it will accommodate, but one argument of Flemming’s seems well off the mark. Can an 80-acre park that stretches more than 1.3 miles really be called “tiny”? On an overall map of the city, Brooklyn Bridge Park may look like a thin sliver, but anyone who has been down on that waterfront and seen up close not only the stretches of upland but also the expansive pier platforms comes away with an impression of considerable size. As to creating a facility for an “obscure, bizarre” sport, Flemming may badly underestimate the growing interest in all things related to bicycles. Brooklyn could become the center of a new enthusiasm, and the park should be able to handle the visitors associated with it.

We have been assured that the facility, which will be larger and taller than the storage building it replaces, will fit under the view plane that protects the view from the Promenade. On other questions regarding its uses and community value, public hearings will be held.

But the ”conflict of interest” issue Mary Frost reports on in this issue seems irrelevant.

Henrik Krogius is editor of the Brooklyn Heights Press & Cobble Hill News

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