Friday Night Blight: Canarsie football team’s practice field plagued by garbage, pipes, human feces

Brooklyn Renegades football coach William Greggs points to a small sink hole that has been filled with trash at Canarsie’s Monroe Cohen park, where the Brooklyn Renegades practice.
Photo by Derrick Watterson

The city has left a small Canarsie green space to rot, forcing youngsters on a local football team to practice around broken pipes, mounds of trash, and literal piles of crap, according to locals.

“In terms of maintenance, it feels we aren’t seen as a good community investment — we are an organization that has been around for 30 years,” said Mitchell Greggs, assistant principal of Park Place Academy, whose husband William Greggs coaches the team.

Monroe Cohen Park located at Seaview Avenue and 108th Street is home to the Brooklyn Renegades, a youth football and cheer leading organization serving kids ages 5–14, which seeks to “mold tomorrow’s leaders” through hard work and rigorous training, according to the team’s website.

But the youngster’s development is stymied by the filth clogging up their rutty practice field, which looks bad, smells worse, and poses a hazard to the kids and their competition. The team is prevented from hosting home games there due to broken pipes hidden in the grass, forcing them to compete for time at Canarsie High School’s football field, said the team’s coach.

“We know where the stuff is, but we can’t hold any home games,” said William Greggs.

The practice field also suffers from lack of proper facilities. Inadequate lighting leaves kids in the dark after daylight savings time, forcing coaches and parents to use their cars’ headlights to illuminate the field.

“After daylight saving time, kids will be completely in the dark,” said William Greggs. “We use cars to light the field and do whatever we can to get them ready for the playoffs.”

But the worst part is the dearth of bathrooms, and kids are forced to run to McDonalds or head behind some trees whenever nature calls. The organization bought its own portable toilet for the field, but some lowlife set it on fire, according to the coach.

Brooklyn Renegades football coach William Greggs points to a protruding rock–which he said could cause an injury to one of the kids on the football team– near where someone has torn up the grass with their ATV.
Photo by Derrick Watterson

Locals fed up with the filth organized to clean up the park over the summer, where one woman was shocked to find human feces strewn throughout the greenspace.

“While we were cleaning, there were children who went behind the tree to use the bathroom,” she Ketsie, a Canarsie resident who complained about the park to Community Board 18 at a meeting on Oct. 16. “And one of the kids actually said ’how come our neighborhood doesn’t have bathrooms.’”

William Greggs claims some parents have reached out to their representatives about the practice field, but couldn’t say who specifically, claiming they never received any response.

“We get no help or anything from our Congresspeople, it is unacceptable,” he said.

Meanwhile, Anessa Hodgson of the New York City Parks Department contends that the field at Monroe Cohen Park is not permitted for night play, including for the use of after-school practice which is why it does not have any sports lighting.

But William claims there are no other designated fields within the Canarsie area code for the organization to use, a situation he said is “absolutely despicable.”

Hodgson said the Parks Department has maintenance staff assigned to the field, cleaning it five-to-seven times a week and regularly address the illegal dumping at the site.

“Additionally, we always welcome and encourage volunteers to help maintain and beautify our parks,” she said. “And invite any of our permitted sports leagues to help set up clean-up days at this park.”

Trash lays out on the field for weeks at a time before sanitation collects it.
Photo by Derrick Watterson

Reach reporter Jessica Parks at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jparks@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @_JessicaParks.
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