The Velodrome Comes to Brooklyn
Joshua P. Rechnitz's main mode of transportation is his bicycle. Rarely does he take a cab or ride the subway. On Thursday, he announced a commitment to underwrite an indoor facility at Brooklyn Bridge Park that will inspire future cyclists and advance bicycling in the city. The cost: an estimated $40 million.
The gift is one of the largest ever made in support of New York parks. "It's breathtaking," said Ellen Ryan, a spokeswoman for Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The 115,000-square-foot facility, to be known as the Fieldhouse, will be situated close to Pier 5 on Furman Street in a space that is presently occupied by a building now used for storage. The space will include a cycling track, or velodrome, and an infield that can be used for sports including tennis, basketball, gymnastics and volleyball.
The approval process and community outreach will take some time, Ms. Ryan said, but the goal is for a facility in five years. The first part of Brooklyn Bridge Park opened in March 2010.
A space for year-round recreation is something that the park had long wanted and was part its original master plan, but eliminated because of budget constraints. The gift will allow for the park to attract steady visitors during the wintertime.
Mr. Rechnitz "took a hard look at our plan, came to us and we thought there could be a meeting of the minds to create the facility he was interested in," Ms. Ryan said.
Mr. Rechnitz, 46 years old, is continuing his family's philanthropic legacy. He is the grandson of Robert and Harriet Heilbrunn, philanthropists who made significant gifts in support of Jewish causes and New York institutions, including the American Museum of Natural History and a playground in Central Park.
Cycling is a passion for Mr. Rechnitz, said his spokeswoman Maureen Connelly. He prefers to "preserve his privacy" and "likes to have a low profile," Ms. Connelly said, adding that he won't put his name on the facility in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The Manhattan resident devoted the last three years to making the Brooklyn Bridge Park Fieldhouse a reality and philanthropy is his primary work, though he is also an animator, according to Ms. Connelly.
He is a partner of Hudson Urban Bicycles, a Manhattan bike store, and a longtime bicycle rider and racer, with a collection of bikes, according to George Bliss, another partner of Hudson Urban Bicycles.
Mr. Bliss admitted that he knows very little of Mr. Rechnitz's philanthropic side, but said his business partner is drawn to aesthetic pursuits and interested in literature and art. Mr. Rechnitz rides a variety of bikes, according to Mr. Bliss, including a one-speed, pedal-brake Belgian bike made by Achielle that is "simple and elegant."
"What we do have in common is an effort to bring a renaissance to the bicycle in the urban landscape. Part of that is recreational activity, and the other part of that is commuting," said Mr. Bliss. "Bicycling, I think both he and I would agree, is not regarded as a sophisticated activity at this time in our history. Not like it was in the 1890s
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