Pitch imperfect: Torn up Williamsburg turf field ‘downright dangerous’

Katherine Conkling Thompson of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park says the city needs to replace the tattered turf.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

They’re crying foul!

The city must replace the tattered turf field at Bushwick Inlet Park, demand stewards of the Williamsburg greenspace who say its deterioration has become a public hazard.

“It’s getting downright dangerous,” said Steve Chesler, a co-chair of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. “It’s making people susceptible to joint injuries by hitting part of the turf in the wrong way or getting your foot caught.”

The synthetic pitch at Kent Avenue has been a hub for local sports — including soccer, rugby, lacrosse, football, field hockey, and ultimate frisbee — ever since it opened a decade ago atop a former industrial site.

“There’s thousands of kids that use this every week,” said Katherine Conkling Thompson, also a co-chair of the local park group. 

Years of heavy use have left the fake lawn between N. Ninth and N. 10th streets worse for wear, according to the head of a local soccer club who regularly uses the pitch. 

“You end up tearing up more turf because you kick a tear,” said Tarek Pertew, one of the founders NYC Footy. “You’re likely to have interruptions at least once per game.”

The kicker noted that the conditions have been shoddy for at least five years, with some of the damage resulting from people being careless and dragging goals across the field. 

But despite the pitch’s popularity, the city has done little more than patch jobs over the years and the advocates say it’s time to do a full replacement in time for next spring. An online petition launched by Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park has garnered more than 800 signatures as of Wednesday.

The petitioners acknowledge that COVID-19 has cratered this year’s city budget, but they claim officials indicated they had allocated funds for a repair job prior to the viral outbreak at the beginning of the year.

“We had heard that the money’s been allocated,” said Conkling Thompson.

They add that the turf replacement would be simple enough for the Parks Department to fix in-house rather than go through an expensive and time-consuming capital projects process, which can take between two to three years

However, a Parks Department spokeswoman said that the field has now become worn out for them to fix by themselves and that the city will have to replace it via capital funding, which the official said isn’t available for this project right now. 

“The wear and tear the field has exceeded our planned in-house fixes and now needs to be addressed through capital funding. At this time, replacing the turf is not funded,” said Anessa Hodgson in a statement.

Pertew — whose soccer club has a strong connection to the north Brooklyn pitch, having first formed there in 2011 — said he and the local community would be more than willing to pitch in to help restore the grounds. 

“Parks are in a tough situation, budgets are getting cut, but what can we do to help,” he said. “It was the very first field that NYC Footy ever had, it holds a very special place in our heart, it’s where it all started.”