Pacific Park board deadlocked over luxury gym
Chelsea Piers was chosen as the facility's would-be operator — but an advisory group is split down the middle when it comes to the gym's future.
An advisory group is split right down the middle about the planned construction of a 105,000-square-foot field house and fitness center at Pacific Park, which was formerly called Atlantic Yards.
Atlantic Yards Community Development Corp.’s board members cast their votes in a 4-4 tie on Monday afternoon on a motion to recommend that Empire State Development Corp. not approve the athletic facility project pending a full-scale environmental review.
The athletic field and fitness center, which Chelsea Piers would operate, would be constructed in the basement of two as-yet-unbuilt residential towers on Dean Street. TF Cornerstone has the development rights to those sites.
The advisory group tried a different approach to the gym-construction issue by voting on it as a motion to approve a change to Pacific Park’s Modified General Project Plan to allow basement-level space to be used as a gym instead of a parking garage.
This vote also resulted in a 4-4 tie.
So, the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corp.’s board won’t make any recommendation one way or another about the gym to ESD’s directors. The latter are scheduled to vote about changes to the Modified General Project Plan on Thursday.
Pacific Park is a 22-acre Prospect Heights development site that’s anchored by Barclays Center. The project was launched in 2003.
The plan to construct a field house and fitness center there without an environmental review has upset elected officials and community leaders.
At a press conference Monday morning, they called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to intervene and not allow the field house and gym development to move forward without a full-fledged environmental review.
Instead of this type of review, Empire State Development prepared a technical memorandum — which was all that was needed, Jack Sterne, ESD’s downstate press secretary, suggested to the Brooklyn Eagle.
“The facts are clear – we have reduced the size of the project and have completed the required environmental assessments for this minor modification” of Pacific Park’s project plan, he said.
“In recent years, we have decreased the amount of required underground garage space at Pacific Park, and this action will merely clarify that space planned to be a garage for building residents can instead be used for a gym that anyone in the community can join,” Sterne said.
Memberships for Chelsea Piers, the gym in question, go for up to $185 a month.
The tech memo is in draft form and has not been released to the public — not even to Atlantic Yards Community Development Corp.
Directors who wanted to read the tech memo before their vote had to do so at ESD’s Midtown Manhattan office.
‘Very attractive lease’ for Chelsea Piers
Several supporters of the proposed field house and gym spoke out on Monday during a public comment period before Atlantic Yards Community Development Corp.’s votes.
One of them was David Tewskbury, a founding partner of Chelsea Piers New York and an executive at Chelsea Piers Fitness Brooklyn at 33 Bond St. The gym opened in June 2018 at this Downtown Brooklyn apartment building, which belongs to TF Cornerstone.
Tewksbury said that last fall, TF Cornerstone exec Jake Elghanayan asked Chelsea Piers if it would consider putting “a multi-sport field house” in the lower level of the buildings the company was planning to construct on Dean Street in Pacific Park.
TF Cornerstone was willing to give Chelsea Piers “a very attractive lease in order to make a sports and recreation use feasible,” Tewksbury said.
Chelsea Piers has worked closely with TF Cornerstone on plans for a 60,000-square-foot field house with a training area, space for gymnastics, two turf fields and a learn-to-swim pool, he added.
There would also be a 35,000-square-foot Chelsea Piers fitness club. The sports facility’s mechanical equipment would occupy the remaining 10,000 square feet of space.
Cut-rate gym memberships
Tewksbury said Chelsea Piers plans to offer residents of TF Cornerstone’s as-yet-unbuilt Dean Street properties 50 percent discounts on gym memberships.
At the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corp. meeting, Chelsea Piers Fitness’s Regional General Manager Keeth Smart said he’s “extremely excited” to bring a field house to Pacific Park so kids in the area will have a sports facility close to their homes. Smart is an Olympic silver medalist in saber fencing.
State Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, who’s one of the elected officials calling for the governor’s intervention, spoke at the Monday afternoon meeting.
“I just want to say to everybody here and to the people from Chelsea Piers — I love Chelsea Piers,” she said.
“I have nothing against Chelsea Piers or a field house or a fitness facility at Atlantic Yards. However, that is totally irrelevant to whether the proposed [facility’s] size triggers a need to do the environmental review,” Simon added.
After the meeting ended, Simon told the Eagle she sees Atlantic Yards Community Development Corp.’s tied balloting as “essentially a vote of no confidence” for carrying out the field house and gym project without an environmental review.
Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.
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