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$63M construction begins on toxic Red Hook ballfields

August 4, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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NYC Parks Acting Commissioner Margaret Nelson on Wednesday announced the beginning of construction on the Red Hook Recreation Area’s track 1, soccer fields 3-5 and ballfields 1-4. 

This third phase of the wider remediation, decontamination and reconstruction of the site represents a $62.8 million investment and advances the agency’s mission to make sure all parks are safe and healthy environments. The project is funded by Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Member Carlos Menchaca (D-Red Hook-Sunset Park).

In addition to its running tracks, soccer fields and ballfields, the 58-acre recreation area, also known as Red Hook Park, contains benches, a flagpole, a drinking fountain, handball courts, the adjacent Sol Goldman Pool, a playground, and new trees and plantings. 

The recreation area is also known for its food trucks, mainly serving food from Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia and other Latino countries. The food trucks, before remediation work began, were widely patronized by local residents watching the soccer and baseball games, as well as passers-by. “I have never seen so many food vendors on one strip,” said Carlos O., a Yelp user, on Yelp in 2016.

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In 2012, the Parks Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), tested the soil on the fields in the Red Hook Recreation Area and determined there was historic contamination linked to Red Hook’s industrial past. In particular, lead concentrations were found within some of the ballfields and the swimming pool area.

Some of these contaminants were found to be close to the surface of the soil and, as a result, several fields will remain closed until their reconstruction is complete. Since then, Parks has worked closely with DOHMH and the Environmental Protection Agency to address historical soil contamination, perform remediation, and to perform air monitoring and reporting in the area. 

“We are excited to begin construction on this track along with the soccer and ball fields. It marks the next stage of this area’s recovery as we work to right a historic wrong. The soil contamination at this site linked to this area’s industrial past presented a serious safety issue,” said Commissioner Nelson. 

The overall remediation of the fields and the track in the Red Hook Recreation Area totals more than $109 million. The work to revamp this site is being performed in phases. The reconstruction of the track and field, these three soccer fields, and the four ballfields are part of Phase 3 of the project. Here are some details on the other two phases.


Phase 1: Red Hook Area Ballfields 5-8 

This project will convert four ballfields from natural turf to synthetic turf and remediate contaminated soils at Red Hook Recreation Area. The work is funded by Mayor de Blasio in the amount of $14.9 million and is expected to be complete in fall 2021. 


Phase 2: Red Hook Ballfield 9 and Soccer Field 2 

This project will convert a ballfield and soccer field from natural turf to synthetic turf and remediate contaminated soils at Red Hook Recreation Area. The project totals $20.2 million and was funded by Mayor de Blasio. It is currently in construction and anticipated to be complete in spring 2022. 


During the past six years, Parks has hosted quarterly community update meetings to provide new information and go over the plans to remediate and reconstruct. For sports permit holders, the agency has been working with leagues and organizations to accommodate them at other parks. 

The city acquired the first piece of land for what is now Red Hook Park on Oct. 10, 1913, originally to provide terminal facilities for a freight railroad. The property was not assigned to Parks until June 27, 1934. The other parcels came under Parks’ jurisdiction between 1935 and 1947. Gilmore D. Clarke (1892-1982), one of America’s most prominent landscape designers at the time, laid out the original development plan for the Recreational Center during the era of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses.

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  1. I don’t believe either the mayor or the local councilman are paying for the work. I’m pretty sure it comes from the budget of the Parks Department.

    Menchaca and deBlasio have little to do with it, take my word as a Red Hooker.