Gym-nauseam! Neighbors say St. Joe’s b-ball arena is ugly

St. Joseph’s College says it wants to build a basketball arena on land it owns on Clinton Avenue between Dekalb and Willoughby avenues in the heart of historic Fort Greene.
The Brooklyn Paper / Bess Adler

OK, so it’s not Atlantic Yards, but St. Joseph’s College has unleashed the borough’s second-most-divisive fight over a basketball arena by unveiling plans to build an athletic center on a landmark block of Clinton Hill.

The small commuter college’s plans for a 330-seat fieldhouse on scenic Clinton Avenue won the slam-dunk support of Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee in January, but neighborhood residents followed that 13–0 vote with a full-court press, saying that the proposed façade is too plain for a street with the most beautiful homes in Brooklyn.

“That is the premier block of the entire community,” said Society for Clinton Hill member Sharon Barnes, referring to the stretch between Willoughby and DeKalb avenues. The Pratt Mansion, a building St. Joseph’s College owns, and other historical aeries dot the block, which is part of the architecturally protected Clinton Hill historic district.

“A stark box does not seem to be the best choice,” Barnes said.

The college would not make its rendering available to The Brooklyn Paper. According to people who have seen it, the plan calls for a two-story facility where a garden and building stand now. The school maintains that it needs a gym in order for its basketball team to be viable to attract students.

The Long Island-based school was founded in 1916 and currently educates just over 1,000 students at its Brooklyn campus. Its men’s and women’s teams play at Brooklyn Tech HS.

Opponents want the college to redesign the home court or build it above the school’s large parking lot on Vanderbilt Avenue, but St. Joe’s apparently said that such a scheme is unfeasible.

“[The school is] mistaken,” said Brent Porter, an architect at the Pratt Institute. “You can have the best of both worlds.”

To realize its hoop dream, St. Joseph’s must gain the approval of the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission, which is no lay up.

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