Group starts petition to turn Fort Greene dust bowl into grass-covered soccer field

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A large patch of dirt in Fort Greene Park is becoming a soccer battlefield.

Some soccer players in Fort Greene Park are demanding that the city install a permanent soccer field on a grassless patch of dirt near the corner of Washington and Dekalb avenues that they claim got that way because of overuse by a bunch of soccer players who illegally use the area for pick-up games every Sunday.

“I want the park to be as great as it can be for everyone to use,” said Mitchell Ratchik, who started the petition a few weeks ago under the name “Fort Greener Park” that demands the dusty area to be turned into a real place to play.

Ratchik and other neighborhood activists claim that the Sunday morning pick-up soccer games are responsible for turning what was once grass into dirt. They say the soccer players defy park regulations by playing without a permit, and that the city has failed to stop the games.

But Sunday morning soccer players fear that if the city puts in a traditional field, it could mean fees, sign-ups, and other red tape that would make it difficult for them to play.

“If they just put the field in and allow everything else to remain the same, then that’s fine,” said Shawn Reid, a Clinton Hill resident who has been playing soccer in Fort Green Park for about seven years. “But when facilities get improved, groups from all over the place see it as a resource and want to play there.”

The Parks Department has fenced-off the grassless area several times in an attempt to grow new grass in the past, but today the fences are mostly down.

Ratchick suggested the city install an artificial turf field — something that residents say won’t happen because the greenspace’s green is a landmark, and the fake grass would most likely be shot down by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which must approve any changes.

“The Parks Department and Landmarks would never agree to Fort Greener Park’s proposal,” said Abby Weissman, the head of the South Oxford Street Block Association.

Ratchik’s plan isn’t the only pro-soccer field proposal making the rounds today.

Tom Wentworth, a neighborhood soccer fan, is trying to build a field in nearby Commodore Barry Park, a park he claims is underused, in disrepair, and in need of a soccer field. That park is home to a large concrete surface that Wentworth says would provide a good base for an artificial turf soccer field.

“[Fort] Greene is good,” Wentworth said, “but digging up the oval, pouring a concrete slab, enclosing the field with tall fencing, and finally requiring permits to play is not a vision many people share.”

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.

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Reasonable discourse

Mom from Clinton Hill says:
Yeah, and Ratner should have to build a park too as part of his Atlantic Yards bargain too. Wait a minute...
July 24, 2013, 7 pm
Mitchell Ratchik from Fort Greene says:
Please sign and share the online petition....
July 25, 2013, 9:30 pm
Getalong from Clinton hill says:
Games have been played in the dust bowl forever. In fact, there has always been a dust bowl and nobody ever complained until recently. The people who complain are the recent residents, not all of course, just a few. They want to shape the neighborhood in their image, instead of just accepting it the way it is. The games represent the last place of diversity in Fort Greene. If you want grass, then use the other 98% of the park. But don't force out the people who have playing games there for decades. Fit in.

July 29, 2013, 12:24 pm
Mitchell Ratchik from Fort Greene says:
Getalong – first of all I moved into this neighborhood in 1988 (so I'm not a "recent" resident)! It was all drug dealers and junkies. FACT: THERE WAS NO SOCCER IN FT. GREENE PARK BACK THEN! If you're pulling the "Good Ol' Days" bit, it's BS.

Second of all it's called making the Park nice for everyone. It's not about making the neighborhood into something it's not, it's about bringing it back to it's former glory. No one is forcing this on anyone. EVERYONE wants to live in a nice, safe and clean neighborhood. The diversity bit is BS, no one is excluding anyone from using the park. I like watching the soccer games and am not against anyone playing soccer in the field. My proposal is to put a permanent soccer field down (suggestions are more than welcome) And the reality is that people only play soccer like 2% of the time, which leaves the rest of us use it 98% of the time!

I love my neighborhood, that's why I put the petition up. My only agenda is to make the park as nice as it can be for everyone to enjoy. It's that simple. I have no idea why anyone would want to preserve the dirt, broken glass and rocks on the main field. Wouldn't it be better to play soccer on grass?
July 30, 2013, 12:23 pm
Tuesday says:
I've been in fort green since the early 80's and the scary talk - that the place was a bombed out drug den - is always a selling point for people wanting to have their way in any given situation.
I just want to know Why is it a problem - all of a sudden - for some people to use the park - as they wish - and not others? This bs needs to stop. Those soccer players were the only people who made me feel safe in the park looooong before the "stars" moved here. Let em be! Don't sit in the dust bowl if you don't like it. Go to the top of the park.
July 30, 2013, 12:43 pm
Mitchell Ratchik from Fort Greene says:
I'm not trying to sell anyone Tuesday and I'm not trying to "have my way" in this situation.

Let me say again, THERE WAS NO SOCCER IN IN THE 80'S IN FORT GREENE PARK. It started in the mid 90's. Yes it's great that people took the park back from the dope dealers, junkies and stick up kids. NO ONE IS TRYING TO STOP THEM FROM PLAYING.

The point is that the dustbowl is nasty, who knows what we're breathing in. REALLY WHAT'S WRONG WITH GRASS!
July 30, 2013, 1:04 pm
Cutlover from Ft Green says:
Why would anyone be against planting grass? Isnt that good for everyone? I dont see what the problem is? You prefer that the park be a —— hole? You can also play soccer on grass or even better on a soccer field.
July 30, 2013, 4:13 pm
Mitchell Ratchik from Fort Greene says:
Cutlover – thank you, that's the whole point.
July 30, 2013, 4:26 pm
Tuesday says:
Yes you are Mitch. You're trying to sell an agenda against the back drop of a scary past.. I'm not against it. I am against the use of the scary past to push forward an agenda.

You've been here since the 80s and all of a sudden this is of utmost importance? - I don't understand.
There was a campaign last year to prevent people from selling water...WATER.. in the park. Then the nasty food truck came over on DeKalb side. No problem with that one.
Besides, when the dogs (and other animals) start peeing and chitting all over the new grass, who knows what we'll be stepping in, sitting on and taking back into our homes. The b s needs to stop.
July 31, 2013, 9:17 am
Mitchell Ratchik from Fort Greene says:
Yes, my agenda is to make the park great for everyone, guilty! Using the scary past to do this, not really, it's not been scary for years now. I only bring it up when anyone pines about the Good Ol' days of Ft. Greene Park. It was scary back then, FACT!

Yes, I had a problem with it back then, it sucked but there were bigger problems other than grass in the park if you remember. Also there was no social media back then, no FB, Twitter,, etc. There were a handful of people who cared. Yes most people are complacent about it, I'm not.

There have been campaigns in the past, 2009 –

also another viable option is –

As for the campaign preventing people from selling water, I could care less. It's called a license and permit to operate selling food in NYC. There's a guy selling water outside the flea every week, good for him.

Dogs in the park is another, totally different issue. Personally I love dogs, just don't like them pooping everywhere. I also have friends and neighbors who are scared of dogs so they don't use the park in the AM. There should be an enclosed dog run, LIKE EVERY PARK IN THE CITY! Yes, I've stepped in it many times, don't enjoy it. I have issues with people not picking it up on the sidewalk too. It's why I have a no shoe rule in my house.

Tues. –Quick personal question? Do you own or rent? Either way you benefit from the park being nice. So why argue against it? and that's not BS.
July 31, 2013, 11:35 am
Tuesday says:
You are right and you know you are. Do I own or rent has nothing to do with the way folks sell their agendas. I could care less about grass/dust to be honest. I've exercised in the park..since early 90s - dust never bothered me. I was in the park when they began bringing bus loads of people thru....telling the horror stories. I've been in Fort Green over 20 years - I love the nabe/park. My daughter graduated Q.O.S. in 1986 and wallked home from school thru FG Park, Then went to college and walked home thru FG Park - - no problems - ever- All I'm saying is know and I know that after the grass is put down in the park, the next round will be to prevent them from playing on the beautiful grass. smh.
Aug. 2, 2013, 2:52 pm
Mitchell Ratchik from Fort Greene says:
I don't think the goal is to prevent people from playing on the grass. People play in Central Park and Prospect Park all the time. I would love to see Ft. Greene Park embrace the soccer players the same way they embrace the tennis players. Give them a real field so they can play.

Also, apologies for the own/rent question. My point is that it doesn't matter, having a nice park benefits both. If you own = increased property value/if you rent = nice amenity.

As far as the dust, lead won't affect adults the same way as a child, I have a little one who I don't want playing in it. I'm happy you've never had any problems, I can't say I've been so fortunate.
Aug. 2, 2013, 5:29 pm
Getalong says:
Hey Ratchick, Sorry I missed your comment. I question that you lived here in the 80s, because you would have seen people playing soccer and football in the park. You are citing the tennis courts as as great example. But let me tell you, no one wants to pay to play. No one should. Many of the guys don't have the money to do that. It's this kind of thinking that kills the neighborhood. It's this kind of mentality that turns it into SOHO. The soccer guys are the most multicultural bunch of people. It's this nice and eclectic mix of people that attracted folks to the neighborhood. If you want to improve the neighborhood, then start helping people for real. Fight crime or poverty, help the elderly, support a daycare or school. Just don't kill the love.
Aug. 7, 2013, 7:14 pm
Tom from Fort Greene says:
Turf the Slab!

Let's finally give the whole community a real home field for local sports in Commodore Barry Park...and a Mondo track for runners! Follow us and stay tuned for exciting announcements!
Aug. 13, 2013, 6:11 pm
getalong from fort greene says:
hey tom,

fort greene soccer players don't need a real home for soccer. They have had one for over 35 years. It's called Fort Greene Park.
Aug. 17, 2013, 9:13 pm
Tom from Fort Greene says:
Turf the Slab is not focused on Fort Greene Park. The campaign's sole goal is to build one (or more) turf field(s) for permitted sports of ALL KINDS in Commodore Barry Park, for all ages, but especially for organized youth leagues who have never had a home field in the neighborhood. If you ever go to the Parade Grounds in Prospect Park, you can get a sense of what Commodore Barry could be, and what a diverse community it can serve. The public is invited to learn more at:

Stay tuned for news and special announcements, and enjoy the rest of the summer!!! If you get hot, come cool off in Commodore Barry's's open until September 2nd:
Aug. 18, 2013, 7:35 pm
Tom from Fort Greene says:
Sign the petition:
Aug. 27, 2013, 12:04 am

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