Playing the field: Schools will repair athletic complex faster than Parks, officials say

Playing the field: Schools will repair athletic complex faster than Parks, officials say
Community News Group / Dennis Lynch

They’re fast-tracking this track-and-field repair!

The city is speeding up a fix for Fort Hamilton’s athletic fields by using school builders instead of parks workers, officials announced on June 6. Typically the flat-footed Parks Department is responsible for repairing the turf, track, and courts there — because the complex is technically a park — but the zippy Schools Construction Authority will instead run the $5.6 million project, potentially shaving years its time, according on member of Community Board 10.

“We’re happy, because if it was being constructed just by the Parks Department, it takes about three years before we even get the scope to approve it. School Construction works much faster,” said June Johnson, chairwoman of the panel’s Parks Committee.

The work is sorely needed — the 15-year-old, rock-hard turf field is literally tearing at the seams, leaving gashes that athletes can trip over, and the running track is pockmarked with equally dangerous potholes, according to a local councilman and alumnus.

“That’s how you tear your ACL,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge, Class of ’77), who funded most of the renovation, along with some help from the borough president’s and mayor’s offices.

Schools officials estimate the project will take at least 18 months once workers get moving, although they cautioned that it is difficult to estimate building times so early in the race. Parts of the field could remain open during the work, depending on how it is phased, they said.

The city will repave three tennis courts and two basketball courts along 83rd Street and replace the fences around them, officials said. The baseball and softball fields will both get new backstops, as well as removable bases and mounds — instead of the clay the school currently uses.

The complex will get some major aesthetic upgrades — including a new scoreboard and goal posts, a refurbished flagpole near Colonial Road, and two new water fountains. Officials hope to replace the fencing along the park’s perimeter, but that it is contingent on whether the project runs on schedule, they said.

The School Construction Authority must build the new amenities to Parks Department standards, which require that a new athletic field last at least a decade — although school officials hoped to install one that would last much longer, they said.

Gentile helped broker the deal between the parks and schools agencies, which could have been a major headache if cooler heads did not prevail, he said.

“I thought we were going to have a turf war between the School Construction Authority and Parks and we’d never see this project, but Parks said go ahead,” Gentile said.

The fields were last reconstructed in 2001 using $1.85 million that state Sen. Martin Golden (R–Bay Ridge) allocated, according to the Parks Department’s website.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlync[email protected]local.com.

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