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Goooaaaaaalllllllll! Truce in Fort Greene soccer war?

The Brooklyn Paper

A long-running fight over a popular section of Fort Greene Park that has been turned into a dustbowl by pick-up soccer players appears to be nearing a happy settlement, thanks to the help of the local councilwoman.

The desiccated lawn near the DeKalb Avenue and Washington Park entrance has been a source of testy relations among footballers and parents, whose children frolic in a nearby playground. Parkgoers who favor passive use of the landmark park have also been perturbed at the sight of the worn out pitch.

“They’ve been complaining for a long time about this,” said Jacob Gayle, one of the players, who toured the park and checked out alternate sites last Friday with Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) and Parks Department officials.

“We need a soccer place and this is a park. We just want to play soccer. We don’t want to complain or fight.”

But other park users certainly did complain — and James brought the players and the Parks Department into her office last week for a shootout. The goal was to find an alternate site for the athletes to lace up their cleats, no easy feat in a neighborhood with chronic shortages of open space.

The players ruled out the idea of moving to the less-trafficked northern side of Fort Greene Park, near Myrtle Avenue, because the lay of the land was not flat enough.

Yet a tentative solution was put forward that would get the players time on proper fields, like Brooklyn Tech HS’s artificial turf on Clermont Avenue near Fulton Street or at Long Island University’s field on Willoughby Street.

To smooth things over, the soccer players offered to pay to reseed the arid patch of Fort Greene Park.

The conflict around the so-called “Dust Bowl” has been longer, yet far less violent, than the other Soccer War fought between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. The most recent flare up came when parents yelled at a group of sportsmen after an errant soccer ball hit a child.

“I have been aware for years about problems around this spot. It’s an ancient problem as old as the park itself,” said Ruth Goldstein, a member of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy. “The park is so small and we’re so overused.”

James said she intervened because the time had come, figuratively and seasonally.

“I knew that the summer was coming and we want to avoid conflict,” she told The Brooklyn Paper.

Past efforts by the Parks Department to re-grow the grass without moving the games, which also occasionally include cricket and real American football, have failed. Like James, the city wants to accommodate everyone.

“Pickup games are allowed. We encourage active recreation,” said Parks spokesman Phil Abramson. “We’re just trying to facilitate different uses.”

— with Roland Li

Updated 4:53 pm, April 23, 2009: Story was updated to clarify Jacob Gayle's quote.
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Reader Feedback

Mike from Fort Greene says:
It's nice watching the soccer games in Fort Greene park on weekends - I always wish I had the talent to jump in. The park really is a little too congested on weekends, though.... So I guess something has got to give.
April 21, 2009, 5:35 pm
Shnoog from Fort Greene says:
My wife plays in some of those games. I like to watch her run the field in a tight soccer shirt and really short shorts. She's so smokin' after three kids. Man, it's gettin' warm in here...
April 21, 2009, 6:02 pm
Judah Spechal from Bed Stuy says:
This is exactly why we elect officials to do bridge the divides & not take sides. If only you'd remember during other issues that affect your District.
April 22, 2009, 11:01 am
Judah Spechal from Bed Stuy says:
This is exactly why we elect officials, to bridge the divides & not take sides. If only you'd remember that during other issues that affected your District.
April 22, 2009, 11:03 am
jenny from fort greene says:
The soccer is a great asset to the park. It's a spectacle many love to watch. It's been great for my son, who's grown up here and now often joins in and the players look out for him. Re-seeding the lawn does not work: the soil/sand is not right for it. It's a waste of resources. I wish they would put down astroturf - or maybe real turf!
April 23, 2009, 12:02 am
parent from clinton hill says:
The dust bowl is ugly but really the soccer players don't have a place to play. The problem with sending the soccer players over to the brooklyn tech field is that you need a permit to play over there and brooklyn tech isn't really a team player.
They have been terrible to the 2 kids soccer leagues that play there on the weekends.
Coaches scream at each other and kicking 5-8 year olds off the field.
Shame on you Brooklyn Tech.
April 23, 2009, 10:29 am
morpheusrex from Fort Greene says:
I'm a big fan of the soccer there, and so are my kids. People who don't want it to continue for the sake of aesthetics should incur a penalty kick against their side.

Goooooooooooooallllasssso!
April 23, 2009, 12:55 pm
Jerome Robbins from Park Slope says:
Another disgusting example of Nuevo-Brooklyn post-gentrification hipster yuppie parents parading their self-entitlement for all to see. "How dare these minorities play an actual sport on our park, don't they know Fort Greene Park is only for little Caitlyn and Caleb to romp with our Jamaican nanny, Nadine?"
April 27, 2009, 7:26 pm
gentrifier from clinton hill says:
I love the park's soccer - just wish there was an actual flat grass-covered space to play on!
June 22, 2009, 9:21 am

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