Brooklyn Boro

Red Hook ball fields officially open after years of remediation

Were shut down in 2015 due to lead contamination

April 21, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Mayor Eric Adams, leaders from the NYC Parks Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other officials on Wednesday held a ceremony to officially open Ball Fields 5-8 in the Red Hook Recreation Area, closed since 2015.

In addition to the ball fields, used for baseball and softball, the Recreation Area contains the Sol Goldman Recreation Center building, an outdoor pool, soccer fields and cricket courts. Both the soccer and cricket facilities are well-used by the area’s immigrant communities. 

An EPA document from April-May of 2015 says that the federal agency began sampling soil from the ball fields area because several metalworking facilities stood on the grounds before they were demolished around 1940. Results showed elevated lead levels in Ball Fields 5, 6, 7 and 8, higher than other areas in the park.

“These fields, which are currently closed for grass maintenance, will remain closed throughout the 2015 season and until cleanup actions can be completed,” the online document said. 

Now, the revamped ballfields boast new, multi-sports fields with synthetic turf, new dugouts, rain gardens, accessible ramps and plantings, according to the Mayor’s Office. All exposed soil was covered with a minimum of one foot of clean soil and drainage infrastructure. Furthermore the fields were equipped with new fencing, curbing and other protective structures.

“We know parks aren’t luxuries, they are necessities that help New Yorkers stay healthy and build community,” said Mayor Adams. “Thanks to this $130 million investment in the Red Hook Ball Fields, New Yorkers will be able to play ball safely for generations to come.”

New York City Parks and Recreation Commissioner Sue Donoghue said, “We are excited to bring these fields back to life and return them to the kids of Red Hook and the community members who followed this project from inception to completion. We are proud to have righted some of the environmental wrongs that have plagued this neighborhood for far too long.”

“We are pleased to stand with the city of New York to celebrate this cleanup milestone. The collaborative work at the Red Hook Ball Fields marks a notable achievement in our continuous effort to address legacy contamination from defunct lead smelting facilities, particularly those affecting overburdened communities like here in Red Hook,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa Garcia. 

“From the senior members of our community to the youngest, everyone enjoys going to ball fields to play or watch a free game,” said U.S. Representative Nydia Velázquez, who represents the area. “With the Red Hook Ball Fields finally cleaned up from the former polluted industrial sites of the past, families can enjoy an upgraded and safe field once again.”

The Sol Goldman Recreation Area building itself reopened earlier this year. Activities, according to the Parks Department website, include bodybuilding, cardio and fitness training, t’ai chi, pickleball, arts and crafts, senior dancing and more. 

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. The “Red Hook Food Vendors” Facebook page, in a post dated October 2021, said the vendors planned to return this month.

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