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Shifting gears! Plan to elevate Bridge Park velodrome makes room for more sports • Brooklyn Paper

Shifting gears! Plan to elevate Bridge Park velodrome makes room for more sports

Cycling advocates believe that building a velodrome, similar to this one in Colorado Springs, could attract Olympic-caliber athletes and exciting national races to North Brooklyn.

A $40 million indoor bike track in Brooklyn Bridge Park will offer more space for other sports after critics bashed project backers for only catering to a niche group of cyclists.

Under the new plan, designers will raise the velodrome to create an eight-foot-tall ground-floor space that accommodates teams and community groups near Pier 5.

The plan adds 3,000 extra square feet of recreation space — slightly smaller (and far shorter) than a high school basketball court — which is perfect for activities such as yoga, pilates, and weight-lifting, project supporters say.

“We discovered an overwhelming demand for diverse recreation,” said the project director Greg Brooks. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for the community.”

Some Brooklynites cheered the still-in-the works plan, saying it’s a creative way to make the most of the site.

“It’s a really imaginative way of maximizing space,” said Larry Weiss of Brooklyn Friends School, who said his students would likely use the new, low-ceilinged space for activities such as gymnastics and fencing.

Some critics say the new recreation area will still cater primarily to practitioners of niche sports, while others cited concerns about traffic in nearby neighborhoods, saying streets will be backed up unless parking spaces are added.

“Parking is not part of the plan; it raises questions about how people are going to get there,” said Jane McGroarty.

The new proposal comes after bike-boosting philanthropist Joshua Rechnitz announced he would give the largest-ever park donation in the city’s history to build a year-round recreational facility where people of all ages can rent and race fixed-gear bikes.

Rechnitz did not return calls seeking comment on Monday — but Brooks said project backers had met with more than 50 organizations to discuss the plan, adding the facility could prompt a cultural shift in the way the city enjoys and defines year-round recreation.

The facility will feature “drop in” cycling for all ages — for $10 to $32 — and be open to summer camp and after school programs and feature about 1,200 spectator seats.

At a Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council meeting on Monday, some panel members said they would not support the project until representatives present a formal rendering and proposal.

“We need a full opportunity to go through this in detail,” said project opponent Peter Flemming.

But others — even some of the harshest critics of public-private partnerships — called the new plan a big win for Brooklyn.

“It sounds great; more recreation is what we need,” said park advocate Roy Sloane.

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