Pickleball courts are coming to Anchorage Plaza in DUMBO

Spectacular space straddles the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO

June 11, 2024 Mary Frost
This rendering shows shaded seating next to pickleball courts, and the entrance to Ash Alley. Rendering courtesy of Parks Department
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DUMBO — The NYC Parks Department revealed Monday that pickleball company CityPickle has turned in the winning proposal for a temporary sports/recreational concession at Anchorage Plaza, a long-neglected but spectacularly scenic area straddling both sides the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO.

CityPickle, co-founded by Mary Cannon and Erica Desai, operates pickleball courts at Wollman Rink, Industry City and many other locations throughout the city. 

Washington Street Yard, part of Anchorage Plaza. Eagle photo by Mary Frost
Washington Street Yard, part of Anchorage Plaza. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

The highlight of CityPickle’s proposal is 12 pickleball courts with lessons, programming and open play hours — but the company also plans plenty of public amenities and open space for those who don’t play the popular game (a cross between tennis, badminton and ping-pong).

Parks representatives David Cerron and Mallory Mrozinski presented CityPickle’s proposal, submitted in response to a Request For Proposals (RFP) issued in January 2024, at Community Board 2’s Parks & Recreation meeting Monday night. 

Cerron is assistant commissioner at Parks for Business Development and Special Events, and Mrozinski is business development and special events coordinator.

Anchorage Plaza consists of three sections straddling the anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo courtesy of the NYC Parks Department.

Three sections, three different themes

Anchorage Plaza, which was used by the city’s Department of Transportation as a parking lot and staging area for bridge work for more than a decade, consists of three sections that total 60,000 square feet, Cerron said. These include the Old Fulton Street Yard, the Washington Street Yard, and Ash Alley, an alley below the Brooklyn Bridge connecting both yards.  

CityPickle’s proposal would place different types of amenities in each section. The pickleball courts would be located on the triangular fenced-off lot next to the Brooklyn Bridge fronting Washington Street. (This area is shown in blue in the renderings provided in response to the city.) CityPickle also proposes other amenities in this section, including “cabana” seating, a playscape, food trucks, rest rooms (in a movable trailer), bike racks, an event space and a public food & beverage area.

Standing: David Cerron and Mallory Mrozinski, Parks Department. Sitting: CB2’s Parks Committee Chair Barbara Zahler-Gringer. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

In the section next to Old Fulton Street (shown in green), CityPickle proposes more passive activities, including a dog run, ping-pong and chess areas, murals by local artists and a tree nursery (in pots). 

Finally, the company proposes an art installation and “social seating” in Ash Alley.  (tinted orange).  

Everything must be movable with minimal infrastructure in case DOT needs to carry out emergency bridge repair, Mrozinski said.

Chance Wade would like more resources brought into Fort Greene and Navy Yard-area parks. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

The temporary and seasonal concession, which would run for three years with the option of extending it for three additional one-year terms, “comes at a very consequential time as the city determines the next steps for the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway),” Cerron told CB2’s Parks Committee. Designs for a reconstructed BQE would likely involve the Anchorage space.

CityPickle would be investing $2 million at minimum in the space for drainage, leveling, and other preparations, he added. “That’s a significant capital investment.” DOT is already repaving the lot, but CityPickle is responsible for any major regrading, if necessary.

“We rated the proposals based on five categories,” Mrozinski said. “CityPickle came out on top.”

The five categories included capital investment, improvements and design; planned operations; operating experience and financial capability; fee offer; and integrated sustainability by design. 

While CityPickle had the highest-rated proposal, the deal is still subject to license negotiations, which might take a few months, Cerron said. 

Parks hopes to have the concession up and running by spring of next year, he added.

Passive amenitities will go in the green area. Rendering courtesy of the NYC Parks Department.

Community input important 

The process began back in November 2022, when Parks first spoke to CB2 about a Request for Expressions of Interest. This RFEI issued in March 2023. Based on ideas floated in response, and responding to community input, the city issued an RFP in January.

“We heard that it was important to focus on the community,” CB2’s Parks Committee Chair Barbara Zahler-Gringer said. “We put that in the RFP as a priority.”

After the presentation, Zahler-Gringer asked about the cost of pickleball lessons, the availability of lessons for youth, and the amount of community court time. 

Parks does not yet have the answers to these questions, but more details would come out in the negotiations, Cerron said. 

According to the RFP, CityPickle’s operational plan includes pickleball court rentals, clinics, leagues and open play, with dedicated hours for youth, seniors, affinity groups and nonprofit programs. “Working with youth will be a priority,” Cerron said. 

CB2 Parks Committee member Richard Mauro. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

Some worried the concession will attract more crowds

While the audience reaction seemed positive, some local residents were concerned about crowds and noise. Washington, Fulton and Main streets are often clogged with pedestrians and traffic as illegally-parked ice cream trucks and other vendors cater to the thousands of tourists spilling into Brooklyn Bridge Park.  

DUMBO resident Zoe Mackler said that huge crowds already engulf the neighborhood, and worried that amenities like public restrooms would only draw more. 

“We need calm, stability, beauty, shade,” she said, adding that even the “thwack” of a pickleball strike is annoyingly loud.

Cerron noted that the design of the CityPickle’s proposal “enlivens” the non-residential Washington Street section of Anchorage Plaza, and provides quieter, more passive activities in the residential Old Fulton area. This was decided as a result of incorporating the community’s wishes into the RFP, he said.

Rendering of CityPickle’s overall scheme for Anchorage Plaza. More active amenitities like pickleball courts will go in the blue area. Rendering courtesy of the NYC Parks Department.

As to the noise of pickleball, “This is next to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge,” he said. “I live here, and I can’t hear a word on my calls. I don’t think pickleball is going to make it worse … Is it perfect for everyone? No. We wanted to appeal to as many people as possible.”

Katrin Adam, who said she has lived in DUMBO’s Fulton Ferry area since 1971, wanted to hear more about long-term plans that would calm down the neighborhood and connect its parks to Downtown parks. “We’re already getting killed by what’s happening in DUMBO. We need something calming in the long run,” she said.

Cerron sympathized, but said that Adam’s concern belonged more in the area of long-term planning, rather than the scope of this project, which is the “short-term activation of a space.”

CityPickle’s overall concept for Anchorage Plaza. Rendering courtesy of the NYC Parks Department.

“Because the city has no money and the BQE’s progress is uncertain, the work of this project is to activate and enliven 60,000 square feet and bring it back to the neighborhood” temporarily, he said.

Chance Wade, a student at City Tech, said he hoped that Parks could shift some attention from Brooklyn Bridge Park to parks in Fort Greene and the Navy Yard area, such as Commodore Barry Park. 

Cerron said Parks didn’t have much control over Brooklyn Bridge Park, since it isn’t a NYC public park, but noted that Parks was making a “huge” capital investment in Commodore Barry Park. He encouraged people to push Downtown parks on social media to divert some of the DUMBO crowds.

“I’m really heartened by this idea, which had to be temporary,” committee chair Zahler-Gringer said. She said she thought the vendor did “a very admirable job,” and applauded the idea that the proposal included passive space.

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