To Some it’s a Park, to Others, a Parking Lot

A view of the area now occupied by the Wollman Rink circa 1930.

Last night the Prospect Park Alliance hosted a "community input session" for the proposed Lakeside Center, a facility that is to replace the 45-year-old Wollman rink and "provide Park visitors with a state-of-the-art, year-round facility featuring two new outdoor ice skating rinks, classrooms, and several amenities" including "a cafe, gift shop, information desk and exhibit space." The new center will be a "green" building designed to "restore the landscape and lake vistas of the original Olmsted and Vaux design" for the park.

As so often seems to be the case in outer borough community meetings, a good
portion of last night’s discussion centered around the question of automobile storage.
While there were none of the histrionics of the 9th Street traffic calming meetings, some of the most intense concerns were expressed by people who use the 300-space Wollman Rink parking lot for visits to the park and for Q train park-and-rides. They want to make sure that a sufficiently large (and free) parking lot is designed into the new plan.

Plan of the Wollman Rink area circa 1874. The rink occupies the area where "Music Island" used to be.

The project is in its very early design stages. In addition to providing the park with a state-of-the-art facility, the idea is to reclaim the part of the lake that was filled in to construct the Wollman Rink and to utilize the area currently occupied by the parking lot, formerly the Carriage Concourse.

Before the meeting started, participants were invited to check out the historical research that had been done showing the evolution of this particular area of the park. Prospect Park Alliance president Tupper Thomas kicked off the meeting by conveying that the purpose of the Lakeside Center was to replace the Wollman Rink, the parks’s "most unattractive feature," and create the "great center the park never had."

The laundry list of potential uses for the new facility is long and as the programming process continues, Thomas is asking for more input from the community. For those interested there will be another meeting on Wednesday, May 30th from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm.

Thomas said that, in the new plan, as currently conceived, car parking would be moved to the area known as Breeze Hill. She said the Prospect Park Alliance is working with transportation consultant Sam Schwartz to develop the plan and minimize conflicts between automobiles and park users. The number of parking spots would be reduced to approximately 150.

Dashed lines indicate current location of Wollman Rink and locker house (upper center) and parking lot (left).

A community member asked Thomas about building an underground parking lot under the new facility. She said that that would be very expensive and "out of the picture" unless a donor was willing to fund it in return for having their name put on, well, an underground parking garage.

She also said that the MTA likes having parking in that area so that people can use it as a commuter lot with its close proximity to the Q stop at Parkside Avenue.

A resident living in the area of the Parkside Avenue and Ocean Avenue intersection noted that the entrance there to the park is not pedestrian friendly. It seems that attempting to fix some of the conflicts there would be included in the plans for the new facility.

Thomas, who has supported efforts to expand car-free hours in Prospect Park, was also asked if the parking lot could be eliminated completely in anticipation of a completely car-free park. Her response was that "Brooklyn is still not a car-free place."

She was also asked if there would be a fee for parking in the new parking lot, given that people taking the subway pay $2 to get to the park and that people using the new facility would be charged admission for some of the amenities. Her response was that they had previously proposed the idea of weekend parking charges, but this idea was "beaten down in the press." However, she does see the validity of the argument for charging a fee for parking in Prospect Park.