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All Things Brooklyn – Brooklyn Sting: Transportation Alternatives

Posted Monday, July 28th, 2008 at 9:24 am by Jaime in Cultural Bees. More in 11211

If you ever decide to take the short walk from the Fulton Ferry Landing in DUMBO up to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, you know that by the time you’re on the Promenade, your legs are burning and you’re out of breath from the incredibly steep climb up the initial stretch of Columbia Heights. Now imagine barreling back down that hill in a home-made wheeled vehicle of sorts, possibly without brakes – and you’ve pretty much got the Soapbox Derby.

Brooklyn Heights hosted the Soapbox Derby since its inception in 2004 – until last year. I’ve blogged about this before – but the Jehovah’s Witnesses own quite a number of buildings in the Brooklyn Heights area, and their headquarters just happens to be on Columbia Heights, the street with the steep hill at one end where the Soapbox Derby is held. Last year they appealed to the NYPD to ban the event from the area for fear of liability issues, (i.e. participants crash into the headquarters and then sue the Jehovah’s Witnesses for putting a building there) and the NYPD complied.

But a friend of the Derby founder uncovered a way around the JW’s complaints. As reported by The Brooklyn Paper, this year’s race will be featured as part of a documentary film, and the film permit, issued by the mayor’s office, supercedes any concerns expressed by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

So on August 23, Columbia Heights will be closed between Middagh Street and Doughty Street. At 2PM, race participants will let gravity do its thing as they hold on for dear life in their home-made soapbox cars. Participants have to follow three rules: soapbox cars must be able to steer, drivers must wear a helmet, and everyone must pre-register here. You’ve got a good month to make something useful out of that jumble of old bikes and skateboards in your hall closet. In the meantime, you can watch highlights from past years.

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