Bay Ridge

Students mount campaign to fix Fort Hamilton Athletic Field

Wear and tear has caused gaping holes, teens say

January 12, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A student demonstrates how easy it is to pull the athletic field’s turf up like a rug. Photo courtesy Nick Koven
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Years of football games, track meets and outdoor physical education classes have taken a toll on the Fort Hamilton High School Athletic Field, according to students, who said the field is in terrible shape and is badly in need of repairs.

The field’s synthetic grass is coming apart and the track surrounding the field has several gaping holes, students said.

“Students have tripped on the field. Football players have to watch their footing after they catch the ball. There are huge issues with the field,” Nick Koven, president of the Student Organization at Fort Hamilton High School, told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Koven and his fellow students have taken matter into their own hands by organizing a petition drive aimed at pressuring the New York City Parks Department to renovate the 6.19-acre field and the quarter-mile track that surrounds it.

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The petition has garnered nearly 900 signatures to date.

Fort Hamilton High School, which has a student enrollment of 4,300, is located at 8301 Shore Road in Bay Ridge. The athletic field, located behind the school building, stretches from 83rd Street to 85th Street and from Narrows Avenue to Colonial Road.

The field, where the Fort Hamilton Tigers, the school’s football team, plays its home games, is littered with soft spots where it’s easy to loss one’s footing, said Koven, a senior at the school.

Fort Hamilton Principal Kaye Houlihan said she fully supports the effort by her students to bring attention to the need for repairs.

“The field is in horrible shape. To say it’s a hazard is accurate,” she told the Eagle.

Koven is hoping to garner support not just from students and educators associated with the school, but from the public at large.

The Fort Hamilton High School Athletic Field is unique in New York City in that it doesn’t only serve the school. The field is also a public park.

When Fort Hamilton High School was constructed in the early 1940s, an agreement was reached between the New York City Board of Education and the Parks Department to have the board control the use of the field during the school year and have the facility open to the public during the summer and operate under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department. Over the years, the two agencies have renegotiated the agreement to give more access for the general public during non-school hours.

These days, it’s not unusual to see Bay Ridge residents jogging around the track at night or on weekends.

“Thousands of people use the field,” Koven said.

The field hasn’t been renovated since 2001, when then-councilmember Marty Golden secured $1.85 million from the city budget for a repair project.

High school senior Koven was just four years old the last time the field was renovated.

The field is made up of artificial turf that contains regulation markings for football, soccer and two baseball diamonds. A set of bleachers sits in the south side of the track. On the west end of the field stands a scoreboard. The field also contains basketball and tennis courts.

Houlihan said she has been told that a new renovation project would cost upwards of $10 million.

Both Houlihan and Koven are convinced that the work will require private investment along with city funding.

“We’re reaching out to corporations to see if anyone is interested in helping us,” she said.

Parks Department spokesperson Maeri Ferguson said the agency is aware that the field needs repairs.

“While there is no current funding to renovate the Fort Hamilton High School athletic fields, Parks works closely with local elected officials to prioritize projects like this. We understand there is a need for repairs and hope to obtain funding in the future,” Ferguson told the Eagle in an email.



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