Brooklyn Zoo replaces Bklyn Beast after infighting and eviction

Jump around! W’burg parkour studio back in business

High-flyer act: Giovanni Raitieri braces for a face full of foam.
The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

The Williamsburg freestyle walking studio that shuttered suddenly in December is back up and running with a new name and new ownership.

The parkour park, formerly Bklyn Beast, now Brooklyn Zoo, will employ some of the same instructors and hopes to win back many of its former students.

“There is a huge following of people who are waiting to come back and train,” said co-owner Masai James, who was also co-owner of Bklyn Beast.

Parkour is a sport like skateboarding without a skateboard, or gymnastics performed in the streets, with the studio serving as a kind of funhouse for practitioners to hone their moves.

This go-round, James has teamed up with Donna Barrett, who owns the Bogart Street warehouse and built the massive obstacle course for the previous business. The pair say Bklyn Beast ended in a swirl of infighting capped by a massive party that went bad and they are hoping to turn over a new leaf with the latest incarnation.

James met Barrett two years ago when James taught her kids to tumble at Chelsea Piers. Barrett then offered up the warehouse she owns for the pay-to-play park and spent $200,000 to install a spring-loaded floor and build the obstacles.

The all-ages playground opened in January 2013 and made good money in its early months, but none of the business arrangements were committed to paper and James’ business partners refused to pay Barrett back for her investment, James said. James left the business and Barrett sued to evict Bklyn Beast, he said. The death knell came on Dec. 15, when the remaining owners threw a massive party that ended with cops slapping the facility with a vacate order, according to James.

Brooklyn Zoo, which borrows its name from the inimitable rap classic by the Wu-Tang Clan’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard, is adding obstacles and has already installed a new rope wall. Instructors from parkour advocacy group USA Parkour will soon visit New York to certify Brooklyn Zoo’s instructors as safe and responsible, Barrett said.

“We will probably have three or four certified teachers,” she said.

The studio also plans to offer classes in breakdancing and tumbling.

The pair are confident that the studio will regain most of its former clientele quickly.

“There are not any other places to do what we are doing here,” said Barrett. “We have amazing talent and amazing instructors. I think people will come back.”

Students are already starting to trickle back in.

“This place is a mecca,” said student Natasha Markwick. “It’s like a second home.”

Prices have gone up slightly at the play palace’s latest incarnation, with classes costing $20, $2 more than before, and 10-class passes up $30 to $180.Brooklyn Zoo parkour studio at [230 Bogart St. at Ten Eyck Street in Williamsburg,, (347) 987–3228]. Classes are $20; 10-class passes are $180; open training sessions are $15–8.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
There is too much detail about matters of too little interest in this story. Who evicted whom? Who was whose business partner? And who cares? But the sport, and who plays it, and why, and what it says about Williamsburg. This is interesting.
March 31, 2014, 1:51 am
Caroline from Manhattan says:
First of all, Danielle, as a reporter should you not at least find out as much as you can from both perspectives prior to placing your name on a piece you write? Unfortunately, what you have reported is not only false, it is libelous and portrays the EXACT facade the alleged "new owners" have intended. Tsk, tsk. No blame whatsoever is placed on their behalf, and that doesn't seem in the least bit suspicious to you? All the deceit and maladies just "happened" upon them by the aforementioned "previous" owners. Speaking as someone that witnessed firsthand the malicious, larcenist manner of not only the interviewee, James, but the Barrett's as a collaboration, you have been spun a completely incomplete story. The predator has become the prey and vice versa. Those "previous owners", as you so ignobly mentioned, not only spent COUNTLESS hours of true blood, sweat and tears (myself included) creating Bklyn Beast, they poured their heart and soul into the place. So, Danielle, to see you write and fabricate a story of a place where the antecedent partners essentially Project X'd the warehouse and didn't give a damn about payments and such, is so false a story, that it is merited to be reprimanded. The honest people of Bklyn Beast, used that facility not only as a training ground, but as a means of pro-action. They kept kids off the street, they pushed people past their comfort zones to places they couldn't imagine, they brought together families, created friends, fought for a betterment of parkour through innovation and creativity; in its simplest sense, they created a genuine sense COMMUNITY where before there had existed none. It is without a doubt, an utter SHAME, that that establishment is no longer under the mindful eyes of those previous trailblazers, but alas, all that can be said in short is, KARMA IS A DAMN ——. Peace&Love.
Aug. 8, 2014, 12:56 pm
Malcolm from Manhattan says:
Well said Caroline! Any parent that has had their children their as I have, knows that BKLYN BEAST was magical, empowering and transformative. All of which was lost after they left. I felt as though something was wrong about this article, thanks for clearing it up.
Aug. 8, 2014, 4:16 pm
Anonymous from New York says:
Im sorry but please google "Geronimo Frias" (the instructor above in the black tanktop) Then please tell me if you would like your children to be taught by a stripper!
Aug. 8, 2014, 4:51 pm
whosaidwhat from manhattan says:
stripper? ow noo, i wouldn't want my kids to learn how to dance, make a livin in this harsh society or how to follow a dream if that was the case. Because you would be really impressed to learn how physical pole dancing can be.. (Mordecai,Rigby) huh, huh, huh, huh
May 23, 2015, 11:47 am
Anonymous from NYC says:
Completely agree with Caroline from Manhattan. This is irresponsible reporting - you only show one side of the story behind the rift. The parkour community is attuned with what really went down. When I visited the Zoo, the new management had nothing good to say about the honest folks who conceived this business and brought the community together in the first place.
Nov. 5, 2015, 1:49 pm

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: