Play fair! Gerritsen Beach residents demand equal ballfield upkeep

Weeds and vines block entrances into the ballfields.
Photo by Jessica Parks

Gerritsen Beach residents are calling on the city to maintain their ball fields as they do for neighboring Marine Park — instead of allowing the fields to fall into the unusable condition they are currently.

“We always feel like we are the stepchild,” said John Mooney, president of the Gerritsen Beach Property Owners Association. “Why take care of one park and not take care of the other?” 

Three of the neighborhood’s ballfields on Gerritsen Avenue — all of which are under the care of the city’s Parks Department — are outfitted with tall grass, with weeds speckling the baseball diamonds and vines overtaking the fences and dugouts.

“The dugouts are unusable, the mosquito condition is so bad,” said Dave Reynolds, treasurer of the Property Owners Association. “The vines are obstructing the view into the fields.” 

Dugouts are covered with vines and weeds.Photo by Jessica Parks

While softball and baseball programs in the city did not gather this year due to the coronavirus, locals argue that kids could have still enjoyed the area recreationally during the summer, similar to the children of Marine Park, where the baseball diamonds are fully groomed. 

“None of these fields were given any of the liberties as the Prospect Park or Marine Park fields,” Reynolds said. “Usually in April or May they till the infields of the softball fields and not even that was done. We can’t even get the grass cut at this point.”

After more than a year of no results, members of the Gerritsen Beach Property Owners Association emailed neighborhood residents in April, calling on them to sign a pre-written letter urging elected officials and the Parks Department to ensure Gerritsen Beach’s ballfields are kept up to par with others in the borough.

“The state of these fields is horrendous, and we have petitioned the Parks Department to step up and do what they are supposed to do,” Reynolds said. 

The baseball diamond is covered with patches of weeds.Photo by Jessica Parks

Residents say they’ve been told the ballfields are not being maintained due to a lack of manpower and equipment, which the Parks Department has allegedly said would need to be hauled from Prospect Park to Gerritsen Beach to expand upkeep.

To keep the Gerritsen Beach ballfield tidy, residents say, city officials have vowed to lend the equipment if community members volunteer to maintain the greenspace. But, locals contend that it isn’t their responsibility — and that they already handle all the groundskeeping at the Little League ballfields further down Gerritsen Avenue. 

“We already manage two very large fields here, they are pretty meticulously maintained,” Reynolds said. “Our thought is, we do enough already … they can’t expect us to do their job for them.” 

Assemblywoman Jaime Williams, who represents Canarsie, Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach, said that, while she has been advocating for the grooming of the ballfield, it is not likely to happen this season due to the reduction of Parks Department personnel as part of the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are aware of the unfortunate conditions at the Gerritsen Beach ballfields. We are pushing to try to have them cleaned upon in an expedited fashion,” Williams told Brooklyn Paper. “The major issue now is the reduction in personnel for parks and sanitation; as well as the overwhelming public health crisis that we are all facing together.”

According to Williams, if Parks can get the equipment down to Gerritsen Beach, the fields are scheduled for a trim this fall.

“We did receive some positive news with regard to the fall season, in which parks and sanitation hope to have the heavy machinery come to the field to trim, cut and prune,” she said. “Although this is not an immediate solution, we will do all we can to try to expedite this for the residents of Gerritsen Beach.”

A Parks Department representative said that with the cuts to the city’s budget, it is more important than ever for parkgoers to take care of their green spaces. 

“The impacts on our park system due to reduced maintenance personnel and budget reductions are an unfortunate reality, and more than ever we need everyone to show their parks some love by taking out what they bring in,” said Anessa Hodgson.