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

Kangaroo court: The basketball court at Pier 2.
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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 or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: More context added.
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Reasonable discourse

MJ from Bay Ridge says:
one solution is to have retractable hoops so that no one can play basketball after certain hours.
July 14, 2016, 6:43 am
Dan from Brooklyn Heights says:
I live in Brooklyn Heights and spend tons of time at the park at various hours. If you fear the patrons of the park, it's because of your own narrow-mindedness, not because of actual threats of harm. I have been overwhelmed by kindness from people at the BBQ pits and haven't seen the slightest disturbance from the basketball courts.
July 14, 2016, 7:41 am
Winter from Brooklyn Heights says:
Dan - Your male privilege is showing! As a woman, I know the dangers of these courts too well. If you think that rape isn't a problem because it only happens to women, or because we're 'asking for it' , then your a MISOGONIST!
Please stop this war on women!
July 14, 2016, 8:02 am
Resident from Bkyln says:
This is just racist.
July 14, 2016, 9:55 am
Rebecca from Park Slope says:
I am appalled and saddened by the residents of Brooklyn Heights who made these comments. Maybe if they joined in the activities at the park --BBQed next to the families who are there, instead of passing judgments on those who are enjoying the park -- there could be a community oriented approach to address issues of crime.
And, to Winter, I am a woman also. I hear you, but I feel shifting comments made by others, in this article/comment section, is condoning a racist mentality.
We shouldn't imply that the people who are at the basketball courts are any more threatening than anyone else in our society. As women, we know that anyone can be a threat, regardless of the color of their skin.
July 14, 2016, 10:29 am
JP from Brooklyn Heights says:
Like any change, this one is scary. The hill down Joralemon Street, past Hicks, was always dangerous. Narrow, broken up sidewalks, uneven cobblestone, any of these could break your neck or your car's axle, but it was a tranquil, sleepy street. Now it is the shortest path between clean fun and those who can't afford a club membership or summer in the Hamptons. The increasing popularity of Brooklyn Bridge Park with the 99% is like releasing steam from a pressure cooker: noisy but necessary and very worthwhile. Is there too much of that release on the narrow footpath that links the fun and the working poor ? Maybe, but it is a problem that is only structurally ours. My wife and I own property on Remsen Street, a pedestrian bridge at the end of our street, additional public transportation, a shuttle on weekends, all of these would spare the racist on Willow (I am black and I do take umbrage, sir) from seeing unfamiliar faces tread on his territory. Any other measure, whether it would be more electronic surveillance or removing -- even neglecting -- equipment that was offered to the larger community, drives a wedge between us (the greater "us") and increases, not reduces, the risk that we all face when we live together in this great city and not in a gilded ghetto of our fears.
July 14, 2016, 11:03 am
John from Sheepshead bay says:
The solution is to enforce park rules. There are bad actors in all groups. Since baskeball courts often attact younger people, you are going to have more issues. Lets talk seriously about race. FACT, many black and hispanic youth from public housing are not being raised correctly . Without proper parenting, most children are going to act out and break rules including robery . I was once on of these children, my parents spent thier days smoking pot, i roamed the streets and often followed who I thought was cool or popular and yes I did many things I regret. I got arrested and instead of sendign me to Juvi(i was a tiny kid they were afraid) I was assigned a mentor and he helped me see what I was doing was wrong. Calling the concerned may a racist because saftey has gone down in his area and calling the "people of color" bad is not the answer, the answer is education of park rules and strict enforcement so everyone can enjoy
July 14, 2016, 11:08 am
Thomas Lawrence from Downtown Brooklyn says:
I have an office on Court Street and return to my parked car, usually parked in Willowtown, around 9:00 p.m. On many, many occasions I have been harassed by young black men bouncing basketballs, saying things like, "Having trouble, ol' man" and often not allowing me to pass on the sidewalk. The character of a once relatively quiet neighborhood, where I lived for many years before, is no more due to large groups of young black men hoarding sidewalks. I am not racists, just stating facts. The article describes a real problem.
July 14, 2016, 11:09 am
Bob Marvin from Prospect Lefferts Gardens says:
How VERY Brooklyn Heights! Doesn't tennis still attract some who aren't "suitable"? Why not a polo field instead?
July 14, 2016, 11:11 am
Bkmanhatman from Nubrucklyn says:
That guy needs to move to the UES/UWS. At least there's almost no grilling in the park.
But this asshat might as well say "no nigg*rzs in the park!"
July 14, 2016, 11:35 am
VLM from Park Slope says:
This is flat-out racism.
July 14, 2016, 12:19 pm
Jspech from Bedstuy says:
It's becoming increasingly hard to enjoy anything new in this city if you are not white. You read about something new, you go check this thing out & inevitably you know your presence makes some uncomfortable. You shake that & try to enjoy, but that's hard when people are scurrying away. You express your feelings & it's straight denial. But you & I will always know it's true. Your burden not mind.
July 14, 2016, 12:30 pm
Jspech from Bedstuy says:
Ps. A lot of times people tell me "sorry". Usually, there is nothing to apologize for. That's annoying. Why do you apologize? We are both just living man. Can't we just live & enjoy? Why live in such constant unnecessary fear?
July 14, 2016, 12:35 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
@jspech, good point. I go through the same thing with them telling me sorry. Like for what? If anything, they should be sorry for their f**ked up attitudes towards certain people.
July 14, 2016, 12:58 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
But i dont pay it any mind like that because at the end of the day, they're the ignorant ones, not me.
July 14, 2016, 1 pm
Jane from Park Slope says:
How is this racist? The two most famous tennis players from the US are the Williams sisters!
What's racist is assuming all Black people play basketball, and are for some reason unable to play tennis! Sports aren't split according to your racist ideologies.
July 14, 2016, 1:05 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
@jane, this is what you dont understand. Its racist due to the fact that basketball is basically a sport dominated by blacks & the folks of bk heights arent too fond of the courts being their because they know its gonna attract them. So they try to cover it up with words like "crime", which is code for "too many n*ggers in the park", which in their minds might bring down their property value over time.
July 14, 2016, 1:16 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
And wtf is cameras gonna do?? People sell crack, get robbed, etc. with the cams there everyday with no problem so quit with the bs please.
July 14, 2016, 1:22 pm
Reader from Brooklyn says:
"How is this racist? The two most famous tennis players from the US are the Williams sisters! What's racist is assuming all Black people play basketball, and are for some reason unable to play tennis! Sports aren't split according to your racist ideologies."

Ah, yes. The old "black people are the real racists" garbage.

Jane, your comment is, in fact, racist.
July 14, 2016, 2:03 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
I suggest mini-golf.
July 14, 2016, 2:14 pm
Can of Worms says:
Why do some feel entitled to destroy?
July 14, 2016, 2:19 pm
Jane from Park Slope says:
Oh - so only Black people play basketball? Surely the picture accompanying the article of white teens playing basketball is photoshopped then?
Why wouldn't Black people play tennis?
What is racist about thinking that all people play all sports if they want to? How is equating public basketball courts with Black people supposed to be not racist?
July 14, 2016, 2:47 pm
norman from fort greene says:
I'm disappointed to learn that such close-mindedness exists in Brooklyn today. I suppose that Jonathan and the commenters who share his views have never been to the tennis courts in communities of color, such as Jackie Robinson Park (Bed-Stuy), South Oxford Park (Fort Greene), Marcy Playground (Bed-Stuy), or Lincoln Terrace Park (Crown Heights), which are constantly used by people of all races. It's absurd to equate a sport with a certain race or to mentally exclude a certain racial group from a sport. Also, I wonder if Jonathan has any clue how f*cking expensive it is to build tennis courts and break ground to construct nets. Let's use our taxpayer dollars for something more important than trying to make whiny rich white people in Brooklyn Heights more comfortable.
July 14, 2016, 5:20 pm
Rez on Joralemon from Brooklyn Heights says:
This is getting blown out of proportion, people are freaking out over practically nothing. The crime data doesn't lie, and nothing has really increased. I'm sorry but this is fueled by racism pure and simple. I live on the street and have simply never observed this behavior some of my neighbors claim is going on. It's absurd to see this. I'm almost ashamed to live here.
July 14, 2016, 5:36 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
@norman, preach!
July 14, 2016, 5:37 pm
Jon Snow from Winterfell says:
Thomas Lawrence the painter. I thought you were from NYC? Grow a Pair.

Winter is coming!
(Microphone Drops)
July 14, 2016, 5:39 pm
Brooklynite from Brooklyn says:
This racism is awful. These people in Brooklyn Heights should be ashamed of themselves.
July 14, 2016, 9:48 pm
Kid Phresh from BK no doubt says:
Dude, you really need to work on your material, the entire point of dropping the mic is to emphasize something noteworthy that has just been said, not to highlight the absence of such.

"Jon Snow from Winterfell says:
Thomas Lawrence the painter. I thought you were from NYC? Grow a Pair.

Winter is coming!
(Microphone Drops)"
July 15, 2016, 4:39 am
Martin from Park Slope says:
Tennis is a higher end sport, with fewer problems.
As has been said, all races play tennis (and basketball).
I like this idea. There aren't enough public tennis courts, and there are far too many basketball courts. People who think basketball means black people are racist.
July 15, 2016, 6:37 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I've been reading about the racism of the Trump campaign all morning, and about cosmopolitans vs nationalists, etc.

It's important to remember that self-described progressives ("I opposed the Iraq War and I'm pro-choice!") can be as racist and xenophobic as any high-school-educated Rust Belt person.
July 15, 2016, 7 am
Cindy from Queens says:
I love tennis - more tennis courts please!
July 15, 2016, 8:18 am
Rez on Joralemon from Brooklyn Heights says:
Martin - Than why get rid of the basketball courts? They're extremely popular. Kids come from all over to use them. They love them.

If you think you're fooling anybody when you say you aren't racist and then say —— like this you're delusional. Everyone knows exactly what you mean.
July 15, 2016, 9:29 am
Johnson from Cobble Hill says:
I doubt the person who suggested repainting the court lines is from NYC.
July 15, 2016, 9:48 am
Stephane from Bushwick says:
It should be recognized this park really upped the ante, in terms of making a spectacular open space that is not gated. Up until recently open to the public parks had to be designed to take a beating, 19th century aside.
July 15, 2016, 10:09 am
Lillian from Park Slope says:
Too bad this utopian vision is funded by the same people who would be the first to leave, in tough times.
July 15, 2016, 10:27 am
sid from Boerum Hill says:
The same complaint was made about the movie theater on Court Street. Remember when the complaint was that the people who lived in the park residential buildings would consider this their private park? So they made sure it would be open to all and attract people of all colors. So now the complaint is that it is too successful. The complaint when they opened the pool barge was that people walked through in their bathing suits. Yes there are unruly teens....oxymoron if there ever was one. I am glad they have someplace to play. Maybe if they opened more residential buildings there would be less problems...
July 15, 2016, 11:41 am
Manfried Arbuckle from Brooklyn Heights says:
Fine, they can have the courts, but at least raise the nets, slam dunks ruined this fine sport and now nobody passes anymore.
July 15, 2016, 12:47 pm
Lisa from Cobble Hill says:
My son and his friends play basketball at these courts 2-3 times a week. They like going as a group and finding another group to challenge. They like the people that they play with, and have never had a problem. My son often goes solo, and joins-in with whomever is there.

These courts are a place for young adults and adults from all over the city to play a sport together. Race doesn't matter, class doesn't matter, religion doesn't matter. It's all about picking-up a good game of basketball.

Sure, whenever you have crowds, you have to watch out for increased crime. But these courts have lower crime than would be expected for the huge number of people that use them every day.

The benefits FAR outweigh the problems.
July 15, 2016, 10:51 pm
jim from BK heights says:
Another defenseless old man was attacked last night between Joralemon and Henry by 4 young people... I guess news like this will be the new normal in Brooklyn Heights.
July 19, 2016, 7:02 am
jim from Bk Heights says:
Here's the link. Tell me if the action of these people are not racist...
July 19, 2016, 7:12 am

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