Rejected! St. Joe’s bails on Clinton Ave gym plan

The Brooklyn Paper
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St. Joseph’s College has backed away from its plans for a basketball gymnasium on Clinton Avenue after an outcry from neighbors that the architecturally uninspired fieldhouse would ruin one of the most beautiful blocks in Clinton Hill.

After declining repeated requests from The Brooklyn Paper to talk about its expansion plan for an article two weeks ago, the college finally issued a statement saying it had decided against the gymnasium in hopes of retaining good relations with its neighbors.

“As loyal Brooklyn residents for almost 100 years … St. Joseph’s [supports] maintaining the beauty and charm of Clinton Avenue,” said Sister Elizabeth Hill, the college president. “The college looks forward to working closely with all of our neighbors in Clinton Hill on the gymnasium project. Together, we can achieve our goal of enhancing both the college campus and its beautiful surroundin­gs.”

The plan envisioned a 330-seat gymnasium for the college’s basketball teams on its land between Willoughby and DeKalb avenues. Community Board 2 supported the project, but St. Joseph’s still needed to secure the final go-ahead from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to build in the Clinton Hill historic district.

But the college ran into trouble from neighborhood preservationists who thought the designs were inappropriate for one of the most desirable streets in Brooklyn, known for its collection of 19th-century mansions.

The college, founded in 1916 and rated “less selective” by the vaunted US News and World college rankings, currently lacks its own gym and its basketball teams play their homes games at nearby Brooklyn Tech HS.

Some hoped St. Joseph’s would consider building on its commuter parking lots on Vanderbilt Avenue, an option that might be on the table.

“We’re looking at different sites, different materials,” said Nancy Connors, the school’s vice president for advancement in an interview last week with the Local, a New York Times blog that followed The Brooklyn Paper’s exclusive earlier this month. “We want to work with the neighbors.”

Updated 5:31 pm, May 7, 2009
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