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Pickleball, Dog Run Coming To Plaza Under Brooklyn Bridge

The lots sandwiching the Brooklyn Bridge will reopen for the first time in 15 years.

Rendering: NYC Parks|

The plaza facing Washington Street will become a pickleball court in 2025.

Two long-shuttered parking lots beneath and around the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO will reopen to the public after more than a decade to host pickleball, a dog run and public seating next year, Parks officials revealed Monday.

The spaces sandwich the bridge's Brooklyn end between Washington Street and Old Fulton Street, known as Anchorage Plaza, and once hosted art exhibits back in the 1980s, before morphing into a public parking lot and eventually a closed city storage area in the 2000s.

There will be 12 pickleball courts on the larger, Washington Street side, along with a restroom trailer, beach chairs and food trucks.

The slice on Old Fulton Street will have seating, a tree nursery, and a dog run, along with art installations, while the passageway under the bridge will have seating and art, according to a presentation Parks gave Brooklyn Community Board 2's Parks and Recreation Committee Monday [PDF].

Anchorage Plaza will have 12 pickleball courts on the Washington Street side, and a more passive space over on Old Fulton.Graphic: NYC Parks

All of the setups will be temporary and movable, for a contract spanning between three to six years, depending on what the city plans to do with the aging Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which cuts through the 19th-century overpass.

"Because the longterm design and nature of this space is still a little bit uncertain, because of the BQE project, what our goal here was to get this space back, to make it publicly available," Parks Assistant Commissioner for Business Development and Special Events David Cerron said at the Monday community board meeting.

Parks chose vendor CityPickle to operate the space. The company, which will invest more than $2 million into the project, also runs courts at Wollman Rink in Central Park, Long Island City, Union Square, and Industry City, among others, and charges around $50-$80 per hour for a court, according to its website.

CityPickle also hosts some "community play" hours each week that cost just $5, but all such slots for this coming week were sold out at the Central Park location.

Parks is still negotiating rates and hours for the incoming Anchorage Plaza outpost, agency reps told the community board committee.

The smaller portion on Old Fulton Street will be more passive, with a dog run, seating, and a tree nursery.Rendering: NYC Parks

The caverns under the bridge boasted an annual art show for nearly two decades called “Art in the Anchorage,” from 1983 until 2001 when it ended due to alleged national security concerns, and the plot on Old Fulton Street became a public parking facility until 2009.

The Department of Transportation, which manages the bridge, has occupied the spaces for storage of trucks and equipment ever since, but DOT has been readying to hand them over since late last year, according to Parks.

The city proposal got mixed reviews at the community meeting, with board members glad to see the space finally reopened, and others worried about how much access they'd get to the space in the already crowded nabe, while questioning the need for the controversial paddle-based sport.

"I’m really heartened by this," said Barbara Zahler-Gringer, the CB 2 Parks committee chairperson. "I really was concerned about whether there would be proposals, and a vendor would be willing to take this on, so I think you’ve really done an admirable job, and to also get that passive space in addition, I’m really looking forward to it."

Locals raised concerns that the company could close off the lot outside of pickleball hours, and urged the city to allow for more access and other uses of the space, given that the neighborhood that is routinely flooded with tourists.

"We’re basically at the whims of a vendor who now wants this space and we fought hard to get this space back into public hands," said Nick DeSantis, of the civic group DUMBO Action Committee. "We’re going to see it locked when it’s a nice evening, because it’s fall and they’re no longer doing pickleball, or it’s nighttime and you want to take a walk, but you can’t."

Cerron, of Parks, said it won't be accessible around the clock, but they're still ironing out the details with the vendor.

Anchorage Plaza at the Brooklyn Bridge along Old Fulton Street has been closed off for 15 years. Photo: Kevin Duggan

"Our interest is having it open, right, so we’re aligned on that. We just have to figure out what the practical side of it is," he said.

Another resident slammed the city for picking pickleball, a fast-growing racquet sport that has drawn heat for its noise and for players hogging the limited urban park spaces.

"Pickleball is worse than tennis. There’s a special sound, there is a 'thwap' that is driving people out of their communities," said Zoe Mackler. "There’s a lot going on there, we need a little bit of calm, we need some civility, we need some beauty, we need some shade… Pickleball is not the first thing that comes to mind."

Cerron countered that the lot is already loud due to the racket of traffic on the adjacent highway.

"If we’re talking about noise, I don’t think pickleball is going to exacerbate that issue when there’s a ton of noise," the Parks rep said.

The agency hopes to open the new space in spring of next year, officials said.

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