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Town-gown battle in Fort Greene as LIU seeks greener pastures

The Brooklyn Paper

Long Island University and Fort Greene are in a town-gown battle pitting the school’s need for athletic space and locals’ need for parking spaces.

LIU’s Downtown campus wants to expand its cramped fields and add some fan seating along Ashland Place, but the proposal could eat up two dozen spaces just one-half block north of busy Brooklyn Hospital.

“We let them know we were not interested in anything that would eliminate parking — especially right across from the hospital,” said John Dew, the chairman of Community Board 2.

Five of Long Island University’s teams currently share the lone field, which can be configured for soccer, baseball and other sports and is adjacent to the school’s gleaming athletic center along Ashland Place in Fort Greene.

As part of its “Brooklyn Field of Dreams” project, the school would expand the fields 21 feet north onto a 36-foot-wide sidewalk on Willoughby Street between Ashland Place and Fleet Street, and 14 feet east into what is now space for 24 parked cars on Ashland Place.

As a result, a six-foot-wide median on Ashland Place would be eliminated to retain both lanes of car traffic and a bike lane in each direction.

The project would expand the soccer field to be NCAA compliant, add bleachers for up to 1,600 spectators and create a bullpen and a press box for the baseball field.

It would be the first major renovation to the University’s athletic facilities since the $45-million Wellness center opened in January, 2006. The budget for the field expansion is $25 million, but it needs city approval.

Soccer teams have been especially hampered by the undersized field. The women’s team should have hosted the Northeast Conference match twice in the last four years based on its record, but was ineligible due to the field dimensions and went on to lose the away matches.

“If we had been home, absolutely we could have won,” said Athletic Director John Suarez.

Community teams, too, have suffered from the subpar facilities.

“We’ve hosted high school championship soccer and lacrosse games, but we can’t get them to come back,” he said. “We should be the place for Brooklyn teams.”

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Reader Feedback

Gretchen from Fort Greene says:
While the fields' dimensions may not fit the conference, the University should have thought about this when they renovated the fields 5 or 6 years ago. Why didn't they extend the field in the other direction when they built their health facilty building a few years ago? And they have made Ashland Place adjacent to the field an arid corridor when they removed trees for the construction. They have resisted any efforts to plant new trees on this corridor.
March 16, 2011, 10:37 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
LIU is a bad neighbor. Brooklyn Hospital parking spaces is much more important to the neighborhood. Not everyone can afford to put their car in that expensive garage when they go to Brooklyn Hospital.
March 16, 2011, 10:50 am
Joe from Crown Heights says:
Yeah I thought I was crazy but I just confirmed it looking at the NYC City Map aerial from 1996. They just built a building in the giant parking lot that was alongside their fields. If they needed more space for seating or athletic fields they should have used that. Not going to make the neighborhood pay for their planning mistakes. The whole campus is designed facing to the interior and giving nothing but fences, loading bays and blank walls to most of the neighborhood, totally degrading the walking environment. So the thought that they now want to take away street space from the community for some inward-facing seating is just insulting.
March 16, 2011, 10:54 am
Cynthia from Clinton Hill says:
Just like any college that wants more space.NYU is one of the most greedy land grabbers out there. LIU just wants to be like them. Fort Greene park should be left alone, its worst enough we have gentrification happening we dont need more land grab.
March 16, 2011, 3:22 pm
Cynthia from Clinton Hill says:
typo park*
March 16, 2011, 3:24 pm
Bob from clinton hill says:
I think the opposition is absolutely nuts. Colleges create JOBS, hosting games brings MONEY, LIU EDUCATES KIDS! And the "fight to the death" opposition is over....24 parking spaces? So what if they made a mistake in their past planning? Plan for the future folks, and stop being so paranoid.
March 17, 2011, 8:17 am
Joe from Crown Heights says:
If parking is not such a big deal then they could have taken some the private spaces and built their building a little further south, giving more room to their fields. Or if they're so flush with cash and desperate for athletic space, maybe they could pay to upgrade and maintain the public fields at Commodore Barry Park two blocks to the north, and use those for some games. No one disputes that higher learning is a good cause, but LIU is NOT a good neighbor and the request to take away public land for their private use is not welcome. Think about maybe offering the neighborhood use of the facilities sometimes - that's give and take. But usurping public parking spaces for a private university's exclusive use is a VERY bad precedent if the institution plans on future expansion - learn a lesson from NYU on how NOT to interact with the community. Nothing against the school by the way - go Blackbirds!
March 17, 2011, 10:57 am
mike from GP says:
All other issues aside, but I'm sorry, why are we concerned with parking when 1) a huge majority of residents do not drive or own a car, and 2) parking is underpriced anyway, and could be better managed by charging a market rate? Why are we letting the needs of big, polluting machines take priority over that of people?
March 18, 2011, 1:35 am
Dave from Park Slope says:
By the same token then, why are we allowing public parking spaces to be used for the free storage of private vehicles?
March 19, 2011, 3:19 am
Shaun from Clinton Hill says:
How about giving the neighborhood some access to the new facilities? Kids would love the pool in the summer. Local leagues could use the soccer field in the summer too. Sadly, LIU just seems to be saying "Me, me, me!" all the time, and then claims to be a part of the community. Their outreach sucks.
March 23, 2011, 10:20 am
Kolby from Da Projexx says:
I gotta Pick up Mah Duh duh dutter... Cant make it
April 7, 2011, 1:43 pm
John Price from Fort Greene says:
Parking around Ashland is not easy, but weighing out the options expanding the field would benefit more people. I would honestly spend a little more time looking for parking than to have thousands of fans miss out on games because there are no bleachers. Instead of people whining about parkings, look at the big picture. If the field gets expanded, people would spend money around the area enriching the community.
April 8, 2011, 10:36 pm
Jennifer from Clinton Hill says:
And LIU is looking to spend $25 million on this new athletic field at the same time that they've pushed their faculty into a strike, supposedly because the school is too broke to afford healthcare premiums or cost-of-living raises? It doesn't add up... or at least, it adds up to really bad management at that university. They should have taken the field into account when they built the new gym. D'oh!
Sept. 8, 2011, 8:37 pm
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
LIU is very short-sighted. They did no pre-planning when designing their wellness center. Their track teams were supposed to be able to run track on the roof top, but after the building was built, they relized it wasn't big enought o host collegiate track events so the track teams continues to rent vans and trek their runners to other venues where they have to pay to rent space.

When they considered putting tennis courts on the roof top so their tennis teams could host collegiate matches, they realized that they only had enough space for two courts, versus the mandatory three for collegiate tournaments.

The Wellness Center/swimming pool was originally going to be open to the community but after it opened they changed their mind and said it was too difficult with liability insurance. Are you kidding me? Is this not something you should have looked at earlier? Charging the community access to the center will cover insurance and liability fees and will also help create JOBS to staff the building. As it is now, the pool is barely used and on weekends, particularly in the summer, they just close the pool.

The school wants to spend $25 million dollars to expand their fields. They should have thought about this before. Ashland is a main thoroughfare. The track record LIU has shown us is that they are myopic in their decision-making process, not really interested in building relationships with the community, and disrespectful of their faculty.

Just plow forward without thinking long-term or bringing in people who go beyond their sons, daughters, and other family members to actually plan out a proposal with thought to not the just the immediate item but beyond.
Sept. 9, 2011, 10:23 am
Catherine from Ft.Greene says:
They are up to it again and are now pushing it through for approval! They somehow got the DOT to approve the removal of the parking spots and are going full steam ahead. None of the residents were notified or asked of our opinion. We need help stopping this!
June 26, 2013, 12:08 pm
RK from Downtown Brooklyn says:
My insights as a neighbor living directly behind LIU: Parking is a serious issue in our neighborhood due to LIU. Many of the students are commuter students who drive to class. Eliminating parking will exacerbate and already difficult situation both for LIU students as well as full time residents.
Ashland Place is a very busy road and used extensively by emergency personal getting to and from Brooklyn Hospital. Narrowing the road will impact these emergency vehicles.
On move in and game days, cars park on LIUs over-sized sidewalk. With the elimination of that sidewalk, the neighborhood will experience gridlock, again impacting emergency vehicles.
Finally, past promises by LIU, such as installing a green space, planting trees, and cleaning up their areas, have been repeatedly abandoned. Any promises they make today will most likely meet the same fate.
Sept. 18, 2013, 12:48 pm

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