Parents are battling with the city for access to J.J. Byrne Park in the most intense skirmish for control of the turf since Gen. George Washington’s troops retreated across the very same patch of land during the Battle of Brooklyn more than 200 years ago.
A recently opened playing field in the park — now officially called Washington Park, a name that is not catching on — became the hottest destination in the neighborhood for parents and their cooped-up children after a long-overdue renovation. But their excitement about the lush (albeit artificial) turf field soured when they learned that public use of the field on weekends would be limited to four hours so organized sports teams could play there.
“We’ve been there almost every day. But we’re on the verge of losing it,” said Karen Fullter, mother of a 5- and 9-year-old who live opposite the green space on Third Street.
The saga is a classic struggle over a limited city resource — open space. In this episode, the conditions were ripe for a confrontation. The long-awaited field opened when the days are long and warm, and the new green pitch replaced an unloved blacktop surface in the park, which is bounded by Third and Fourth streets and Fourth and Fifth avenues.
“I love the park,” said Debra Wexler. “But there has to be a balance that provides more than four hours per weekend.”
Prospect Park is a few blocks away, but parents on the Fourth Avenue side of the neighborhood said the uphill hike is inconvenient and far.
Fuller and dozens of other spurned parkies have signed a petition asking the Parks Department for more use of the field.
An agency spokesman said the field was specifically designed to handle the demand for organized youth sports — which is also intense.
“Designed as a Little League ballfield, it will be primarily permitted on evenings and weekends as most designated ballfields are,” said spokesman Phil Abramson. “However, the community will also be able to enjoy the field during the week and on designated weekend hours.”
The park formerly named for late (and somewhat great) Borough President J.J. Byrne has had a tortured recent history. A condo developer damaged the handball courts while constructing the Novo building on Fourth Avenue — and only reopened them after many delays.