Heights resident’s solution to Bridge Park crime: Replace basketball courts with tennis courts

Playing easy to get: Brooklyn Bridge Park is thieves’ haven
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Members of a Brooklyn Heights civic group stormed Brooklyn Bridge Park’s community meeting on Tuesday night, demanding officials do something to stop the criminals they claim are plaguing their once-quiet neighborhood while going to and from the green space, with one attendee hurling racially charged remarks about the park-goers.

The speaker, who refused to give his full name, insisted the best way to fix the problem is to tear down the basketball courts and grills at the bottom of Joralemon Street — often, but by no means exclusively, used by people of color — and replace them with amenities that will attract a different crowd.

“They need to get rid of the basketball courts and replace them with tennis or badminton and get rid of the grills,” said the Willow Place resident, who identified himself as Jonathan. “The criminals will go away.”

Jonathan insisted his idea was “criminal profiling,” not racial profiling, but also that anyone could recognize the bad guys based on looks alone.

“Look at the tennis courts and see who is playing, look at the basketball courts and see who is playing,” he said.

And he isn’t the first local to suggest demolishing the basketball court in response to a perceived crime problem — others have proposed it at police precinct community council meetings and on local blogs, according to a Gothamist report.

Members of the Willowtown Association — which covers the south-west pocket of the nabe, bounded by Atlantic Avenue and Joralemon, Hicks, and Furman streets — claimed crime on Joralemon Street has skyrocketed in the past few months as park-goers commute through their brownstone blocks.

One 90-year-old woman said that someone threw a rock through her century-old glass door — which she will now only replace with plexiglass out of fear of the incident happening again — and another longtime resident claimed the influx of foot traffic keeps her hiding indoors once the sun goes down.

“There are people screaming for their lives,” said one 43-year resident. “I don’t feel safe walking outside after dark with my two children.”

Crime data doesn’t really back up their claims — it shows seven more larcenies on Joralemon Street this year compared with the same period in 2015, but two fewer burglaries, one less car theft, and the same number of assaults. Stats on vandalism and general harassment are not available on the Police Department’s online database, however.

There definitely has been some trouble at the basketball courts, which are on Pier 2. Police have closed the courts six times since April due to fights amongst teens there, including one where a 20-year-old man pulled out a gun and opened fire — though didn’t hit anyone.

Park president Regina Myer acknowledged the issues, but later said removing the basketball courts would violate the park’s commitment to being “a space for everyone.”

“Getting rid of some the most popular basketball courts in the city is decidedly not the solution, and would fly in the face of everything this park stands for,” she said in a statement.

The 84th Precinct has boosted the number of officers stationed in the part this summer from two to 25, but residents were not satisfied and demanded the park pay to put cameras on Joralemon Street to scare off and catch lawbreakers.

Myer promised to look into getting cameras installed at the corner of Joralemon and Furman streets.

In the meantime, she encouraged the residents at the meeting to call the local precinct and Department of Transportation to air their grievances, as she lacks the power to immediately provide a solution to their complaints.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill