Red Hook Park is the site of a genuine turf war.
Coaches are battling a Manhattan-based private school over its plan to create a state-of-the art, synthetic field — and then control its use on weekdays.
Xavier HS, located on W. 16th Street in that other borough, plans to spend $2.5 million to turn a worn-out public field at Columbia and Bay streets into a mini-Meadowlands complete with new lights and bleachers.
After making the upgrades, the school would be guaranteed after-school practice times, prompting a schedule scramble among Red Hook youth and adult leagues.
“My kids live here; they should be the first priority,” said Daniel Clay, coach of Red Hook Raiders football.
Clay said that the tentative field schedule gives Xavier — and its Brooklyn Titans football club — control of the field from 3 to 8 pm on weekdays. By then, he said, his grade-school–aged players have to get to bed.
Red Hook teams will be permitted to practice during all other hours — weekends, before school and under lights at night — according to the tentative schedule.
Xavier volunteered to improve the field — which coaches called “a dust bowl”— at a time when the Parks Department didn’t have the resources to maintain the widely used greenspace.
But others pointed out that a city’s inability to maintain its own public facilities is typically a back door towards privatization.
In addition, public field permits have long been a heated issue in the borough, with teams accusing the city of favoring wealthy, politically connected organizations over scrappy, low-budget rec leages.
In some cases, hot-commodity Brooklyn fields work more like a gold rush: Whoever shows up first, cashes in. But even that can prompt outdoor quarrels, like in the case of the pick-up soccer players who duked it out with parents over a popular area in Fort Greene Park.
“There’s potential for a land-grab and even violence,” said Titans coach Bill Solomon.
That’s part of why a Community Board 6 committee will figure out a permitting system for what will essentially become a public-private park.
“To teams, permits are the holy grail,” said board member Nica Lalli, adding the city should dole them out in a more transparent way. “Emotions run high; You could make a reality TV show about it.”
Xavier president Jack Raslowsky did not return several calls seeking comment, but told The Brooklyn Paper in March, “We’re not looking to take over the field. … We’re looking to give back to the community.”
Xavier will also replace the field’s surrounding track, paving the way for competitive runners. The renovations will take four to six months to complete, according to the project’s architect, Tom McGinty.
©2011 Community News Group
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