BAY RIDGE – Two years, two council members, and $4.7 million later, the historic Fort Hamilton High School Athletic Field has been renovated – 18 years since last improvements were made to the large property.
In 2017, funding for the six-acre field located at 83rd to 85th Street between Colonial Road and Narrows Avenue was mainly secured by then-Council Member Vicent Gentile. In November of that same year, Gentile’s term was up and Council Member Justin Brannan took over the project.
“My time ran out in the City Council before this project became reality so I handed it off to Council Member Brannan,” Gentile said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning. “In a football metaphor… you took that hand-off flawlessly and you took it across the goal line for a touchdown. And today we see the touchdown.”
In March of 2018, construction for renovating the field began and lasted until July of 2019. Renovations include new surface on the race track, three ADA accessible water fountains, new gates and fence, a new scoreboard, and new concrete curbs around the track. The new synthetic turf is also shock absorbent.
At the ribbon-cutting, Brannan complimented Fort Hamilton High School’s marching band that was playing before the ceremony. He called it the “best band in town.”
“It’s projects like this mean so much to me. This is a field I grew up playing on,” he said. “One of the things I hear a lot about is… people coming and saying ‘Why can’t we have something like what they have here?’ But now we have our own world-class track and field right here.”
Fort Hamilton Atheltic Field comes with a lot of history.
In the 19th Century, the land served as a sight for the Crescent Athletic Club. In the 1920s, the athletic club closed and the Bowery Savings Bank took over. In June of 1938, the City of NY bought the property for $650,000. The Board of Education proposed the “construction of a high school to occupy a large portion of the land and agreed to divide the remaining property into an athletic field and the adjacent community playground,” NYC Parks tells us. And in 1941, it became a reality.
The last time the field was renovated was 18 years ago in 2001 for $1.8 million. The update included a synthetic rubber track with markings for football, soccer, and two baseball diamonds. New bleachers and a scoreboard were also added. The tennis and basketball courts haven’t been renovated since, and Brannan is looking to change that and has allocated an additional $2.5 million to re-do them.
“This is a great project and a great field,” State Senator Gounardes who represents the area told us. Gounardes was a student and the school mascot who remembers being at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2001. “I run on this track; this track is fantastic. It’s a gem in the neighborhood and community. This is a game-changer for our neighborhood and a tremendous asset for our community.”
Principal Kaye Houlihan, while thanking the elected officials and organizations that made the renovation possible, thanked the students — many of whom were sitting on the bleachers facing the newly renovated field.
“This was not an overnight process,” she said. “Students were the biggest advocates. We started the ball rolling but it didn’t come home until their voices were heard.”