Turf war looms in Red Hook Park as city high school seeks field takeover

Turf war looms in Red Hook Park as city high school seeks field takeover

A Manhattan private school is planning to install artificial turf at a Red Hook Park field for the benefit of their sports teams, which have been practicing there off and on for decades.

Xavier High School, located on W. 16th Street in that other borough, wants to spend $2.5 million to turn the site at Columbia and Bay streets into a mini-Meadowlands. In addition to the synthetic turf, upgrades will include new bleachers and lighting, according to plans released to Community Board 6 this month.

Xavier will also replace the field’s surrounding track — paving the way for the school’s runners to work out there, too.

If the renovations receive the required city approval, they will take four to six months to complete, according to the project’s architect, Tom McGinty.

“We hope this is a win-win,” said Xavier president Jack Raslowsky. “We’ll get a better space to practice and the community will get a better field.”

But Xavier’s upgrades to the field have the potential to stir up at least two controversies. The first is environmental, as rubber grass in city parks is a historically contentious initiative. For instance, natural grass partisans called the synthetic turf that the city laid down on Cadman Plaza Park in 2007 a “toxic time-bomb.”

The second possible battle is over scheduling. Xavier’s football team currently uses the field during the fall several times a week and the soccer team practices there in the spring.

Raslowsky said that the upgrades would allow his teams to play in Red Hook more often, which could lead to the ousting of the youth football leagues, adult soccer teams and the city after-school program that have permits to use the field, but haven’t put up big money to maintain it.

Raslowsky insists that Xavier has no intention of annexing the field.

“We’re not looking to take over the field,” Raslowsky said. “We’re looking to give back to the community.”

Improved facilities may also lead to a demand for free-play at the field, which is currently open to only permit-holding teams. The only active sports ground in the borough available for non-team use is Washington Park on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope, thanks to locals who demanded that the city make the concession in 2009.

“The renovations could lead to more people competing for use of the park,” said Bill Solomon, coach of Brooklyn Titans football, a youth league that uses the field as many as six evenings a week.

But even concerned locals foster some optimism about Xavier’s meddling, citing that the field is in poor condition and needs the artificial turf.

“The field is rundown and Xavier is making it better,” Solomon said.

He added that the additional lights may actually avert scheduling conflicts, as they will allow the field to be open at night.

“That way, leagues can have more time for activities,” Solomon said.