LETTER: Brooklyn Bridge Park is too small to accommodate velodrome

September 5, 2012 Peter Flemming, Joralemon St., Brooklyn Heights
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Henrik Krogius writes that Brooklyn Bridge Park “has lots of room” and therefore “can easily accommodate” the proposed track-cycling velodrome on Furman Street.

Everything is always relative. Central Park might also “easily accomodate” a nearly 2-acre, five- or six-story velodrome; as might Prospect Park or Kissena Park or Van Cortlandt Park or Pelham Bay Park. Much more easily, as a matter of fact, than Brooklyn Bridge Park, which has but 73 acres of dry land or pier surface, almost 9 acres of which will be consigned to revenue-generating private housing, a hotel and retail/office. And another half acre will be given to a private, non-revenue-generating theater. 

But should any of our city’s parks be required to “accommodate” a privately operated spectator-sport arena? Or a venue for a sport so rare in the United States that until this winter there were only two other indoor velodromes in the country, and now, with the closure of the Boulder arena, only one?

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Mr. Krogius also sounds the alarm that our park must not “just be a front garden for Brooklyn Heights.” Far from it, Mr. Krogius. All of Pier 5 will be an outdoor field for soccer, field hockey or other field sports. All of Pier 2 will be an outdoor venue for basketball, tennis, handball and other hardcourt sports. A half acre on Pier 6 is already a 3-court beach volleyball venue. From one end of the park to the other already runs a bicycle, jogging and walking path. On the lawns at Pier 1 children and grown-ups alike kick soccer balls, throw frisbees and practice their lacrosse. 

One summer, thousands swam in the “Floating Pool” at Pier 5 (and, God and a generous donor willing, may again some day). This summer, hundreds of children every day learn to swim in the “pop-up” pool in from Pier 2. In the playgrounds at Main Street Park, Pier 1 and Pier 6, hundreds of children from all parts of the borough flock to the swings, the “ship,” the water park, the climbing structures. When the “berm” is finally built behind Piers 3 to 5, there will be hills to climb and walkways for views and exercise. By this fall there will be a “picnic peninsula” along the jetty between Piers 4 and 5.

This is hardly a “front garden.” However far from the bucolic serenity of Olmsted’s Central and Prospect Parks our 21st century Brooklyn Bridge Park is, with so much active recreation and so much busy programming, it is still, and must still be defended, as a park — not a “destination,” as those who prefer the South Street Seaport model might desire, or as the velodrome’s very generous Mr. Rechnitz may envision.

Peter Flemming
Joralemon St., Brooklyn Heights

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