I named the park “the Dust Bowl” during the 1990s because it was full of dust. That was not a proper condition for a ball field.
I hoped that if it were named that, the people of Bay Ridge would pressure their local officials to appropriate the funds so that the field could have grass or artificial turf put in — green so you wouldn’t have dust anymore. I thought it would be symbolic of the condition of the field.
What happened is that over the years, the name grew on people. It became a term of affection rather than a term of criticism, and I think that’s perfectly all right.
This should be an inspiration for others to get their fields restored and to do that through local elected officials. This is one area where a councilmember can deliver for his community.
I’m very pleased with the field, and as far as the parrot names, well, I think that’s something that ought to be closer to Poly Prep, for “Polly the Parrot.”
I named a lot of parks over the years, sometimes the names stuck, sometimes they didn’t. I felt every park should have a name. Things are better cared for and more respected if they have names and are not just pieces of land that are left over from everything else. I thought park identity was important in generating support for the park in the community. You can’t talk about something if you don’t know what it’s called.
One thing I didn’t like was naming it for people who stopped bullets. Robert Moses preferred naming things after geographic features. I feel that way, too. He didn’t name things for individuals — except himself.
The Dust Bowl should remind people of what it used to be before the grass and turf came in. It’s become a historical reference. It has nothing to do with the Okies. It’s Brooklyn’s own Dust Bowl. It’s so ridiculous — the political correctness — that you can’t write about a Dust Bowl without somebody squawking. It was interesting to receive letters and hear letters like that from people complaining. My word to them is lighten up. But of course, the community can decide. I’m pleased as a voice from the past that this has become a subject of political concern. It shows people care about their parks.
Henry Stern is the former Parks Commissioner who officially named the Leif Ericson Park field, “the Dust Bowl.”