North Brooklyn has become synonymous with bike riding in recent years, but a new plan for a velodrome in Greenpoint would bring the cycling craze to a whole other level.
Utilizing a $7 million design competition for waterfront improvements in the neighborhood, Williamsburg-based Affinity Cycles owner Jason Gallacher and national cycling champion Andrew LaCorte have joined forces to create a proposal for a velodrome, or championship cycling track, on a city-owned lot on Commercial Street.
The velodrome will first have to compete with other proposals including a $5 million public boathouse and a $2.4 million biosculpture. However, the track could potentially be a reality in as little as two years.
“There’s a real need for this because there’s such a strong cycling culture here,” said Gallacher. “Our (Affinity Cycle’s) team has three national champions and one Olympic hopeful. There’s national caliber racing in this neighborhood already.”
At one time, New York City was one of the biggest venues in the country for the sport of track cycling. Weekly races were held in suburban areas of the Bronx, and six-day racing events took place at Madison Square Garden in the 1930s.
However, Kissena Velodrome in Queens is the only one of these tracks that remains. Gallacher said that the venue is no longer for high caliber racing.
“It’s the home track for our team, but it’s too long for today’s standards and in poor shape,” said Gallacher. “Also, it’s not accessible by public transport. It’s a 30 minute walk off the 7 train, so you really need a car to get there.”
Gallacher said that constructing an outdoor velodrome on Commercial Street would cost approximately $500,000. If the city enclosed the velodrome for year-round use, it would cost an additional $3 to $4 million.
The proposal also has a focus on the future of pro cycling by including a cycling training facility, in addition to paths for BMX racers.
“Our goal for this is to be not only a center for track racing.” said Gallacher. “We want to have BMX trails and a place for casual cyclists to go for a nice bike ride. There’s no real establishment for that now.”
However, several hurdles will need to be cleared for this to become a reality. Although progress has been made, the city has been unable to convince the MTA to remove itself from its waterfront parking lot on Commercial Street that it has leased for the last several years, also halting process on two proposed city park projects in Greenpoint.
In addition, community board members have also questioned the sensibility of having a velodrome in the neighborhood.
“It could be really cool, but 65 Commercial St. is in its preliminary designs as a soccer field,” said Dewey Thompson, a Community Board 1 member, in an interview with the Brooklyn Paper. “Could a velodrome fit next to it? That would have to be figured out with the community.”
The idea has also raised eyebrows among local residents as well.
“I think that it would be a poor use of a potentially great public space,” said Greg Schwartz, a resident of Greenpoint. “It seems like it would make more sense to fix the velodrome in Queens rather than build a new one here.”
Gallacher said that a “Friends of the Velodrome” Facebook page and website will be launching within the next week or two in order to rally support and funding for the project. In addition, Affinity Cycles will also be pledging money and complete bicycles.
For more information about the Greenpoint Velodrome, e-mail inquiries can be sent to Gallacher at firstname.lastname@example.org