Brooklyn Bridge Park, the 85-acre park at the edge of Brooklyn Heights, transformed an industrial shoreline into a recreational esplanade that today draws over 125,000 people on summer weekends. It has become the emerald trim of a jewel-box neighborhood of handsome brownstones.
Particularly prized are the park’s tidy basketball courts that draw players from as far as the Bronx and Queens for their million-dollar views of Lower Manhattan and other amenities not often found on more humble home turfs — like actual nets on the hoops. But a spate of courtside fights among rowdy visitors, punctuated by gunfire last year, has prompted the police, at times, to shut down Pier 2, where the courts stand.
The situation has set some residents in the well-off neighborhood, which is mostly white, on edge, some of whom portray the pier as an OK Corral for gangs and complain that their quaint streets have become overrun with teenagers. The players, many of whom are black, say that whatever problems have occurred are relatively limited and believe that they are the victims of stereotyping.
Courtside fisticuffs, they say, are just a result of teenagers being teenagers — and isn’t that what happens in parks?
The conflict between the players and the neighborhood plays out in particular at the southern end of the slim, 1.3-mile-long park, where it pours out onto Joralemon Street.
“Joralemon Street becomes like this funnel of kids who are already very agitated running down the street screaming, bouncing basketballs, taunting pedestrians, taunting cars,” said Linda DeRosa, the president of the Willowtown Association, a local civic group, referring to times when fights have caused the park to be closed by the police. “It’s just a sign that the park really needs to get control of their facility.”
The issue came to a head during a recent meeting at the local police precinct house, which was reported by Gothamist, in which residents said that the unruly crowds drawn to the courts were damaging the character of the neighborhood.