Rich private schools rally to save rec bubble on Pier 5

The Brooklyn Paper
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A coalition of area private schools wants to build a sports bubble in Brooklyn Bridge Park now that park officials have failed to do so despite a deal between state lawmakers and Mayor Bloomberg earlier this year.

Parents and staff from Brooklyn Friends School, St. Francis College, Packer Collegiate Institute and other prep schools are advocating for a regulation-sized soccer field on Pier 5 and an indoor recreation center — saying that a field suited for college play would be better for the community.

“It’s an amazing idea and one that would be a huge positive for Brooklyn,” said Darrin Fallick, director of athletics at Packer Collegiate Institute on Joralemon Street. “For us, the ability to walk to a field or track would be a big positive.”

Last week, park officials approved a $19.2-million contract for three smaller artificial turf fields without the bubble, disappointing many locals who have been pushing for year-round recreation at the site — especially locals with children in area schools.

Now Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights), state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights) and the school athletic heads are trying to convince Brooklyn Bridge Park officials to build a bigger field and release another request for developers before it’s too late.

Pier 5’s recreational bubble burst in October after Brooklyn Bridge Park">announced that it failed to attract a developer and wouldn’t seek any other contractors to build one.

Critics accused park officials of scuttling the winter-proof facility by setting unrealistic requirements for operators. For instance, the facility would have no rest rooms or locker rooms, and the owner would pay for maintenance, operations and off-season storage — all while offering free or low-cost access to the bubble, which would cost about $2 million to construct, only $750,000 of which would have been covered by the city.

The failure of the bubble to be included on Pier 5 is a major loss for Squadron, who maintains that the city has a “good faith” obligation to build a year-round recreation center as part of a deal he made with Mayor Bloomberg in August to allow some luxury housing inside the park to fund the $16-million annual upkeep.

But the fine print only requires park planners to issue a formal request for proposals for a bubble, which they did.

Some park advocates are slamming Squadron for giving up his veto over condos at John Street and Pier 6 — and not getting the promised indoor sports facility.

“We thought Squadron would use the veto power to get a good deal — and that’s not what he got,” said Jeff Strabone, a Cobble Hill resident.

For his part, Squadron said that “the obligation will be kept.”

“It’s premature to say the bubble is dead,” he added.

Even alive, a private-school–run bubble is making some park advocates nervous.

“It’s a slippery slope when you have private entities running what should be public facilities,” said Judi Francis of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund. “The good news is that the schools to date have been very cooperative.”

Doreen Gallo, president of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance, is helping organize area schools to demand regulation-sized fields at the pier. She said that proper fields is the first priority — then the private schools will consider operating a bubble.

She said that the elite schools don’t want the Pier 5 fields only for themselves, but as a shared facility with the community.

Having a regulation-sized field for home games would save parents time and money for bus trips.

“All this money is going into creating a park and we’re still looking at the same situation — we have nowhere to play our games,” Gallo said.

“No one’s asking for ownership. We’d just like to be able to play in our own neighborhood — on regulation-sized fields.”

Park spokeswoman Ellen Ryan claimed that regulation-sized fields aren’t feasible because the pier is too small, but that she welcomed the schools’ feedback on the bubble.

“We are always willing to hear ideas that potential users have for enhancing recreational use at Pier 5,” she said.

Reach Kate Briquelet at or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.
Updated 5:28 pm, July 9, 2018: Includes a bit more context and less of a characterization about whether Squadron got rolled or not.
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Reasonable discourse

Judahspechal from Bedstuy says:
Who is surprise w/ Bloomberg u always have to know that private schools were always in pic.
Dec. 12, 2011, 10:28 am
VoiceOfVerdad from 11211 says:
Squadron keeps his promises, to his crumb bum cronies. Let's make sure the fat little pampered princes in BK Heights and Dumbo get an indoor soccer field, while the other city parks go unbuilt and unfunded.

I would love, just love, to see Squadron, Bloomberg or any of these Boss Tweed wannabes go to bat for Bushwick Inlet Park.
Dec. 12, 2011, 12:02 pm
Anon from Brooklyn Heights says:
Perfect - the private "park" with private luxury condos and private guards (paid for by your taxes), run by a private Conservancy now pitching for private schools that would own and operate indoor recreation. The perfect privatized park. Boss Squadron - the perfect politician only money can buy.
Dec. 12, 2011, 2:53 pm
adamben from bedstuy says:
it's a crying shame that people don't even bother to vote because either you have money or the votes if you want things done, with voting being the cheapest and easiest way to realize projects for the majority of nyers and not just for the elites.
Dec. 12, 2011, 6:28 pm
tell the truth now , from wykoff hiouses says:
When are we ever gonna get a chance to be with all them rich people. I say lets all send our children down there and just join the activities its gonna happen if not now when ?
Dec. 12, 2011, 7:06 pm
Ruth M from Formerly Brooklyn says:
This news is quite incredible. Isn't this what the state senator was to have gotten for his decision to allow more housing in the park? I have been away too long and Brooklyn is becoming a foreign land. I agree with one writer: Vote Squadron out of office. Public parks are for all kids not those of the very rich. Doesn't this guy get this?
Dec. 13, 2011, 10:02 am
Nick from Brooklyn says:
Brooklyn Heights is run by the rich people who send their children to the private schools. If you think otherwise, you are mistaken. They will pay for or take or bribe they way into getting what they want.
Dec. 13, 2011, 10:51 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Private should be rich enough to get their own space rather than use what is supposed to go to the public.
Dec. 13, 2011, 4:18 pm
Frank from Furter says:
Who do you think uses Randall's Island? and it ain't public schools....
Dec. 13, 2011, 7:03 pm
Friend of Van Wilder from Summer School says:
Taj, I mean Tal, go rant about Atlantic Yards.
Dec. 13, 2011, 8:01 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Please explain why it's okay for private schools to have space that is only for them in a public park.
Dec. 13, 2011, 9:08 pm
Mark Lieber from Brooklyn says:
Tal, Do you pay taxes in the City? Parents who send their kids to private school do. Yet you want to use our parks and deprive their kids of that use. Whoever gets a permit for the use of an area in a park gets the sole use of that area for that time slot, whether resident or non-resident, public school or private school. Doesn't seem unfair to me.
Dec. 13, 2011, 11:14 pm
bklyn20 from Brooklyn Heights says:
Private schools should get time on Pier 5 schools; so should public schools and perhaps other sports leagues. The point is that NO SCHOOL should administrate/permit the space. It should be handled by a neutral organization to avoid conflicts of interest. Please have a look at this piece from the NY Times regarding Randall’s Island:

In the latest in the series of events regarding Randall’s Island, the NY Times blog reported:

"For the second time in two years, a justice in State Supreme Court has ruled that the Bloomberg administration had improperly struck a deal with 20 private schools to provide them with priority in using athletic fields on Randall’s Island in exchange for $45 million.
A coalition of public school parents and students, community groups and park advocates have argued that the deal between the city and the 20 schools, including Dalton, Buckley and Chapin, essentially turned public parkland into a private domain.
In the decision Tuesday, Justice Marilyn Shafer of State Supreme Court in Manhattan rejected the city’s revised deal with the private schools, saying it, too, was improper because it did not go through a public review. Justice Schafer excoriated the Bloomberg administration, saying its arguments were “audacious,” demonstrating “more daring than logic” She ordered the city to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees and costs.
“It’s a major win,” said Norman Siegel, a lawyer for opponents of the city’s plan. “The city shouldn’t give a priority to people merely because they can pay for the use of public land. That discriminates against those who can’t pay to use the public land. We’re not saying the private schools can’t use the fields, just that everyone should be treated equally when it comes to public land.”

Will there even be public hearing on this? When will all park users get to speak their piece? Call your elected officials, neighbors, if you want recreation space for your family. Otherwise we can just put a pretty iron fence around Pier 5, distribute keys to the lucky few, and rename it Shamercy Park.
Dec. 14, 2011, 7:20 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Mark, if this is a public park, the public should be invovled. If they find that such a use is bad for them, then the schools cannot get that permit. Why should they be allowed to use something that the public needs all the time without consulting first? Could it be because they will be afraid that it will take too long to process? Since a number of private school owners are probably friends of Bloomberg, it's very likely that they will be allowed to use it whenever they want to, and deny the public. I thank bklyn20 for that piece from the NY Times, because that is true.
Dec. 14, 2011, 8:49 pm
Frank from Furter... says:
How much do you want to bet(like 1.00) that even after public hearings they will still allow the Private schools to use it. I really don't understand. If you want a private entity to build and run the bubble or what ever it is, you can be assured it will be rented out most times for money and not free. yes you can get some free time but if its for profit-and that is what the rfp will do---it still will be used by those who pay for it. The Tennis courts the city runs require a permit fee....but the public should be involved...through the already existing community boards...yes I know its controlled by the BP...but the appointments are also made by the local city council members... for City parks this is mandated by the City Charter although the BBP is still technically state owned...but Randal's Island is City owned...
Dec. 15, 2011, 4:47 pm
bklyn20 from Brooklyn Heights says:
Frank, this is not a park -- it's a "development project." Furthermore, it's still an ESDC project, I believe, so they don't have to hold any hearings. If they do hold a hearing they are not required to consider or act on any of the public comments.

It's fine if the private schools use the fields -- they just shouldn't RUN the fields. No school or other entity with a conflict of interest should run it. The CB's opinion is only "advisory," and in any case the BP can most likely knock anyone off no matter who nominated them.
Dec. 15, 2011, 7:01 pm
CG Mom from Carroll Gardens says:
It's US versus THEM. How many public school children are there in this district? Gather your kids and OCCUPY ESDC. OCCUPY the fields. The five private schools may flex with their money, Public Schools must show your voices. You got volume!

Thanks Bklyn20.
Dec. 15, 2011, 9:16 pm
2nd Place from Carroll Gardens says:
Bubbles vs Sheds? So much programming could have been going on there if the sheds had not been torn down or only partially removed. That demolition was such a waste of easily (and cheaply) reusable real estate! Imagine the events, art shows, sports, whatever that could be occurring on site until there was money to spend on bubbles. Shame.
March 1, 2012, 10:46 pm

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