$50 million velodrome is dead. Philanthropist backs out of Brooklyn Bridge Park project

January 10, 2013 Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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After more than a half year of controversy, a plan to bring a bicycle racing sports complex called a velodrome to Brooklyn Bridge Park has crumbled, the New York Times reports.

Joshua P. Rechnitz, the bicycle-loving philanthropist who was backing the project with $50 million of his own funds, told the Times on Wednesday that he and his team would seek another location for the indoor “Fieldhouse” featuring a specialized, banked racing track and viewing stands.

While local support for the plan had been decidedly mixed, the decision was made mainly for financial reasons, planners said. The proposed location -– directly below the Brooklyn Heights Promenade -– added aesthetic costs to the project, and Superstorm Sandy raised the specter of flooding.

The velodrome complex was to have been situated at Furman Street upland of Pier 5. The complex would be one of only two such indoor facilities in the country (the other is in California).

After criticisms about its size in relationship to the relatively narrow park, its effect on traffic and the obscurity of the sport itself, which requires specialized bikes with no brakes (as described in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle), the plans were revised to create more space for community sports activities and team games, with fewer stands for spectators.

But skeptics — including Peter Flemming, co-chair of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Council and a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Park Corporation — maintained that the project wasn’t a good fit for the park.

Flemming told the Brooklyn Eagle last July that “the proposed Fieldhouse is a specialized velodrome masquerading as a community recreation center — and it doesn’t belong in Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

“It’s a pipe dream designed to give this guy his building,” he continued. “The number of people who really want it you can count on the fingers of your left hand.”

Brooklyn Bridge Park, however, said the proposal was envisioned as a “flexible public indoor athletic and recreation center” that included a public boathouse, restrooms and space for the park’s maintenance and operations. Dr. Larry Weiss, Head of School at Brooklyn Friends School in Downtown Brooklyn backed the proposal because the infield courts would be made available to area schools.

“The proposed Fieldhouse will bring park users and the community the all-weather sports and recreation venue that has always been included in the General Project Plan for the park but was unattainable due to financial constraints,” Regina Myer, President of Brooklyn Bridge Park told the Eagle back in July.
Today, the Times quotes both Mr. Rechnitz and Ms. Myer as regretting the project didn’t work out.

 “We are grateful that we were considered for this facility, and frankly we are saddened that it won’t come to fruition in the park,” Myer said.

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