Town-gown battle in Fort Greene as LIU seeks greener pastures

Town-gown battle in Fort Greene as LIU seeks greener pastures

Long Island University and Fort Greene are in a town-gown battle pitting the school’s need for athletic space and locals’ need for parking spaces.

LIU’s Downtown campus wants to expand its cramped fields and add some fan seating along Ashland Place, but the proposal could eat up two dozen spaces just one-half block north of busy Brooklyn Hospital.

“We let them know we were not interested in anything that would eliminate parking — especially right across from the hospital,” said John Dew, the chairman of Community Board 2.

Five of Long Island University’s teams currently share the lone field, which can be configured for soccer, baseball and other sports and is adjacent to the school’s gleaming athletic center along Ashland Place in Fort Greene.

As part of its “Brooklyn Field of Dreams” project, the school would expand the fields 21 feet north onto a 36-foot-wide sidewalk on Willoughby Street between Ashland Place and Fleet Street, and 14 feet east into what is now space for 24 parked cars on Ashland Place.

As a result, a six-foot-wide median on Ashland Place would be eliminated to retain both lanes of car traffic and a bike lane in each direction.

The project would expand the soccer field to be NCAA compliant, add bleachers for up to 1,600 spectators and create a bullpen and a press box for the baseball field.

It would be the first major renovation to the University’s athletic facilities since the $45-million Wellness center opened in January, 2006. The budget for the field expansion is $25 million, but it needs city approval.

Soccer teams have been especially hampered by the undersized field. The women’s team should have hosted the Northeast Conference match twice in the last four years based on its record, but was ineligible due to the field dimensions and went on to lose the away matches.

“If we had been home, absolutely we could have won,” said Athletic Director John Suarez.

Community teams, too, have suffered from the subpar facilities.

“We’ve hosted high school championship soccer and lacrosse games, but we can’t get them to come back,” he said. “We should be the place for Brooklyn teams.”

Long Island University Athletic Director John Suarez wants to expand the schools playing fields, but the construction might eat up parking on Ashland Place.
Community Newspaper Group / Laura Gottesdiener

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