‘Bubble’ has burst! Pier 5 rec fields move forward without year-round element

Pier 5 plan moves ahead
Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation

Brooklyn Bridge Park is moving forward with three soccer fields and a picnic area on Pier 5 — without leaving room for a year-round sports bubble.

Park officials awarded Kelco Construction a $19.2-million contract for a trio of artificial turf fields, a promenade, playground and barbecue station at the five-acre pier at the southern leg of the waterfront park.

Kelco — which is also building the controversial $6.2-million Squibb Park Bridge connecting Brooklyn Heights to Pier 1 — will complete the Pier 5 fields by next fall.

“At this point, it’s so important that we move ahead with recreation on Pier 5,” said Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation. “The challenge for us will be maximizing the use of these piers for four seasons.”

In October, Brooklyn Bridge Park announced that it had received no bids from developers to build the enclosed “bubble” and wouldn’t look for other contractors — effectively killing the project.

The facility — which would have been open from December to March — had no rest rooms or locker rooms, and the operator would pay for maintenance, operations and off-season storage.

The city vowed to spend up to $750,000 on construction, but the developer would be responsible for everything beyond that.

Critics accused park officials of scuttling the “bubble” by setting unfeasible and uneconomical requirements for developers.

“This was designed to fail,” said Roy Sloane, president of the Cobble Hill Association. “[Under city rules], developers would have to put in a lot of money, have it open only four months a year, and charge very reasonable prices. Did that sound like something the city was serious about?”

For 30 years, community advocates pushed for an indoor recreational hub in the style of the Corona Park Pool and Rink in Queens, the largest complex ever built in a city park. Indeed, the park’s original master plan in 2000 called for turning the pier’s freight shed into an indoor/outdoor pool and playing field with the help of a private developer.

But that shed was demolished. And then, five years later, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation created a new project plan that called for a seasonal and “lightweight” structure — instead of Brooklyn’s answer to Chelsea Piers.

Now without weatherproof recreation, the park will be a dead zone in winter, said Judi Francis, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund.

“The community never wanted a temporary bubble,” she said. “We always planned for a permanent pool and indoor playing field. What do you do in the middle of the winter or the depths of summer when there’s no relief from the sun? The new plan didn’t work.”

Reach Kate Briquelet at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.

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