originally posted @Inhabitat.com
Yesterday, cyclist Joshua P. Rechnitz single handedly made the largest monetary gift to the NYC park system and made the widely longed for dream of an indoor velodrome within NYC come true. Rechnitz, the grandson of philanthropists, pledged $40 million to build a new recreational center in an old warehouse on Pier 5 of the Brooklyn Bridge Park near Furman Street. The velodrome will be an easily accessible crown jewel in the NYC parks department, and it could open as soon as 2016.
The NYC cycling community has frequently tried to find ways to renovate old buildings into velodromes, but instead cyclists have had to make do with existing under served infrastructure or travel great distances to experience, train, and race – usually on outdoor tracks far from the city. Historically, grand indoor velodrome races would captivate huge audiences in Madison Square Garden, circa 1879-1920, and enthusiasts argue that the the time is right to bring them back to modern audiences.
LIFE Magazine Vélodrome d’hiver (Winter Velodrome) in Paris
Perhaps even more exciting, the gift from Rechnitz is specifically designated for a new field house in Brooklyn Bridge Park, that will house the new indoor cycling track. Rechnitz supposedly looked into locations around New York and New Jersey that would be suitable for an indoor cycling track. “Once he understood our park,” Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, said, “it made more sense to make this a multiuse facility, and it became a collaborative discussion.” The space is to be an enormous 115,000 square feet that will also include basketball, tennis, volleyball, and gymnastics facilities.
In the New York Times and Wall Street Journal stories about the donation, city and park officials appear completely flabbergasted by the sheer size and generosity of the gift, which is twice the amount of the $20 million donation from Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg to the High Line — the previous largest gift to a city park. Rechnitz’s donation includes his promise to underwrite the first 10 years of the new field house. And it’s hard to think of another public space in New York City that has the clear potential to increase the health and happiness for so many of it’s residents.
As active members of New York’s cycling community, we have just one thing to say: Thank you, Mr. Rechnitz.