Red Hookers: Ball field cleanup could cause more flooding in ’hood - Brooklyn Paper

Red Hookers: Ball field cleanup could cause more flooding in ’hood

Water you thinking?: Red Hook residents Gita Nandan, Stephen Kondaks, John McGettrick, and Jim Tampakis — all members of a state-formed committee to identify new storm-resilliency projects in Red Hook — say a plan to cover lead-contaminated ball fields with dirt and synthetic turf would make it even tougher for rain water to soak into the ground in the flood-prone neighborhood.
Photo by Jason Speakman

It’s a water-shed moment.

A city plan to cover over the lead-contaminated baseball fields in Red Hook could sink the flood-prone neighborhood, say locals.

The Environmental Protection Agency last year found dangerous levels of the heavy metal in five ballparks at the Red Hook Ball Fields, and is now forcing the city to lay down a protective barrier, some clean dirt, and new sod over the toxic turf. But a committee of residents the state charged with thinking up ways to flood-proof the nabe in the wake of Hurricane Sandy says capping the field will make it tougher for storm-water to soak into park ground — further stressing the area’s already-struggling sewers.

“There’s a lot of drainage issues and storm-water management issues that happen when you’re capping eight-acres of property,” said New York Rising committee chair Gita Nandan during a July 22 meeting among residents, the city, and federal environmental authorities to discuss the contaminated site and what the city should do there. “They’ll look like green fields, but they’ll be the same as concrete.”

Water submerged much of the peninsula during Sandy, when flood-water and backed-up sewers socked the neighborhood with a soggy one-two punch.

But Parks officials say they may top the foul ball fields — and a few others — with synthetic turf, which they say has better drainage than regular grass.

“Just by doing synthetic turf, we’ll increase the potential for water retention,” said Brooklyn parks honcho Kevin Jeffrey.

Other residents are asking for more say into the park’s general design, noting the fields are the main green space for 6,500 people in the nearby Red Hook Houses.

“Red Hook Houses are taking the brunt of this cleanup without having a significant amount of input as to how the park should be developed,” said area resident Steve Abel. “There needs to be a master plan as to what and how it should be developed — with athletic facilities in mind.”

One park-goer had a bright idea to extend the park’s usable hours beyond sundown by installing lighting.

“This is a great time to put lights, because you’re tearing up the fields,” said Nathan Ball, who runs youth soccer club Park Slope United, which plays on the Red Hook fields.

The Parks Department says it is willing to work with community members, but money doesn’t grow on trees, and the agency still has to come up with a projected $50 million for the federally-mandated cleanup before it can start paying for additional amenities.

“When we take a look at the commitment the city has already made for remediation … well in excess of $50 million in anticipated costs, I cannot sit here and give you a commitment for lights,” Jeffrey said. “But I think its a good idea and something we will discuss.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Don’t play ball: Several fields in the Red Hook Recreation Area are closed because they are contaminated with poisonous lead left by a smelting facility that operated on the site nearly a century ago.
Photo by Jason Speakman

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