Red Hook

EPA to update public on state of contaminated Red Hook ball fields

Red Hook Vendors Struggle Due to Closures; Schools Must Find New Athletics Fields

August 2, 2016 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Environmental Protection Agency Soil Sampling Location Map. Photo courtesy of U.S. EPA 8-2-16
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The Red Hook ball fields have long been plagued by uneven playing surfaces, puddles of water and trash. Student-athletes who utilize the fields are all too familiar with the miscellaneous drug paraphernalia, used contraceptives and broken glass that litter the grounds.

More recently, however, the fields have been beleaguered with a different dilemma: widespread soil contamination.

Due to high amounts of lead found in the ground, several soccer and baseball fields have been closed for several months as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the city Department of Parks and Recreation, conducts a $105 million remediation plan.

On Thursday, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., the EPA, along with NYC Parks, will hold a joint meeting at the Miccio Center, located at 110 W. Ninth St. in Red Hook, to update the community on the cleanup process. Representatives from both agencies will discuss the ball field closures and the scope and time frame for the planned cleanup at Ball Fields 5-8 and 9. There will also be a Q&A session.

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At the end of the fall 2014 athletic season, Ball Fields 5, 6, 7 and 8 were closed as part of the regular winter closure schedule. The fields were scheduled to open again in April 2015, but they remained closed following receipt of EPA’s sampling results from a March 2015 soil-sampling event.

According to the EPA website, natural levels of lead in soil range between 50 to 400 parts per million. The averages from the sampling at the ball fields, however, were 1,580 parts per million in the top inch of the soil and as much as 3,795 in the subsurface.

In addition, Soccer Field 3 was closed in March 2016, and Ball Fields 1, 2, 3, 4 and Soccer Field 2 were closed in May 2016 due to high levels of lead in the soil.

Ball Fields 5-8 are expected to be cleaned up by fall 2018, according to the NYC Parks website. Ball Fields 1-4 and Soccer Field 3 are expected to be cleaned up by fall 2020, and Soccer Field 2 should be completed by spring 2020.

The contamination comes from the former secondary lead smelter Columbia Smelting and Refining Works, which manufactured several types of metals containing high lead concentrations during the mid-1920s and 1930s. The facility was located on Field 7 and at the Hicks-Lorraine MTA bus stop.

Ball Field Closures Affect The Community

The closure of the Red Hook sports fields has had adverse effects on the popular Red Hook Food Vendors, who sell Latin-American food in the park on summer weekends. Since the fields closed, several vendors have left the park; there are currently five, down from eight last year.

“We do miss all those players,” Marco Lainez, who works in the El Olomega food truck, told DNAinfo. “[The field closure] has affected the vendors drastically.” Lainez told DNAinfo that sales at his food truck have dropped about 35 percent since the ball fields have closed.

In addition, the Mexican food truck Country Boys, which has been part of the Red Hook Food Vendors for two decades, did not return this summer.

“Business was getting a little too slow for us there,” Shaina Martinez, who used to work at Country Boys, told DNAinfo. “We just noticed fewer people were coming down to the ball fields.”

The field closures will also affect several independent schools in Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn, including the Packer Collegiate Institute, the Saint Ann’s School and the Brooklyn Friends School, all of which use the Red Hook fields for their athletics teams. It is unclear where these schools’ teams will relocate.

Potential alternatives for those schools include Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5 soccer fields and the Aviator Sports and Events Center located at Floyd Bennett Field near Mill Basin.

Longtime Packer physical education teacher and coach Dorothy Gurreri told the Brooklyn Eagle that Packer, “like most Brooklyn schools, is scrambling to find fields. We might even go as far as Staten Island or Queens.”

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