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Bridge Park bike philanthropist will bring arts to Gowanus - Brooklyn Paper

Bridge Park bike philanthropist will bring arts to Gowanus

Bike-boosting philanthropist Josh Rechnitz is now funding a multi-million-dollar art center in Gowanus.
Courtesy NYC Fieldhouse

The philanthropist funding a $40-million athletic facility full of fixed-gear bikes in Brooklyn Bridge Park is now throwing money at an innovative arts project in Gowanus — earning him street cred as Brooklyn’s coolest benefactor.

Joshua Rechnitz — who carries the wallet behind Brooklyn Bridge Park’s headline-grabbing indoor bike track project — now wants to turn a sprawling industrial building on the banks of the Gowanus Canal into a gallery and studio space for artists.

Rechnitz’s not-for-profit, Powerhouse Environmental Arts Foundation, bought the vacant $7 million former MTA powerhouse on Third Avenue between Third and Carroll streets last month, saying it will soon become a hub for creativity.

“It’s a beautiful building and he wants to save it — to ensure it will be used for art in a neighborhood where many artists and artisans live,” said his spokeswoman Maureen Connelly.

Rechnitz, who has a background in film and animation, made a splash last spring when he pledged the largest public park donation in the city’s history to build a bicycle velodrome featuring a 200-meter inclined track at Pier 5.

Neighbors are now cheering the Gowanus plan, calling the fiercely private, bikes-and-art-boosting do-gooder the coolest patron on the planet. His gallery space plan is an exciting addition to the already arts-centric industrial area, much like the nearby studios at the Old American Can Factory, longtime residents say.

“Sounds like a great new home for the arts,” said neighbor Linda Mariano.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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