Just in time for Spring, Mayor Eric Adams Wednesday cut the ribbon on four refurbished baseball fields in the Red Hook Recreation Area funded by a $18.2 million grant from the city.
The ballfields reopened Wednesday after a seven-year shutdown that followed the discovery of elevated lead levels in the soil of fields 5 through 8 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and city Department of Parks and Recreation in 2015. The contaminated soil came from the Columbia Smelting Facility, a lead smelting plant that used to be located in Red Hook Park.
Adams said the refurbishing of these fields should even the playing field between the Red Hook Recreation Area and parks in more well-resourced parts of the city.
“It’s a great day for Red Hook,” Adams said. “After a seven year wait, these young people have waited for seven years to see this field come back and see the type of quality fields that you see in other parts of the city, you have not been denied, a Red Hook ball field is back. And we’re going to ensure the other ballfields receive the support that they deserve.”
Adams was joined by city Parks and Recreation Commissioner Sue Donoghue, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, Councilwoman Alexa Aviles and EPA Regional Administrator Lisa Garcia.
“With support and guidance from the EPA,” Donoghue said. “We began an extensive remediation and reconstruction project to protect members of this community. Today, we’re happy to report that these fields are safer and better than ever, and they are ready right in time for this year’s baseball season.”
The renovated fields boast improvements like new synthetic turf fields for a variety of sports, dugouts, rain gardens, accessible ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, rain gardens and plantings for beatification. Before the new amenities were added, the contaminated fields were covered with a minimum one-foot of soil and drainage infrastructure, a layer that’s supposed to protect people from coming into contact with the contaminated soil that will be inspected regularly going forward.
The improvements to fields 5 through 8 are part of a bigger $130 million effort by the city to revitalize all of the park’s ballfields. Three more projects are currently moving ahead in the Red Hook Recreation Area including ballfield 9 and soccer field two, which are expected to reopen in the summer.
While Aviles celebrated the newly renovated section of the park, she said there’s still much more work to be done to make Red Hook a more livable community. Especially when it comes to removing lead from the Red Hook Houses New York City Housing Authority development.
“Lead in Red Hook Houses is higher than anywhere else in any public housing across the city,” Aviles said. “We have a lot of work to do. So I just wanted you to know that I’m committed to that work. And I know our community will make sure to hold us all accountable so that we get it done.”