Updates On Harold Ickes Playground And Red Hook Ball Fields

RED HOOK – The Parks, Recreation, and Environmental Protection Committee of Brooklyn Community Board 6 held a meeting Wednesday night to update locals on the Harold Ickes Playground and the Red Hook ball fields.

Harold Ickes Playground at Hamilton Avenue & Van Brunt Street via Google Maps

The Harold Ickes Playground is on Hamilton Avenue between Van Brunt Street and Woodhull Street above the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. The main feature in the playground’s redesign is an elevated skate park, which will make it the only skate park in CB6. The project also includes a bouldering set, parkour area, and ample open space.

Members of the committee loved the design and moved to officially recommend it. The motion passed unanimously. “Bravo Parks!” said committee member James Nadeau.

The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted a meeting in May providing an update on the lead remediation and improvement project at the Red Hook ball fields and announcing that the first phase of the four-phase project would be delayed by approximately ten months.

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It was announced Wednesday that the proposal for the Red Hook ball fields 5-8 (adjacent to the Red Hook Recreation Center) would not be addressed during the meeting but would be presented sometime in October. NYC Parks and the EPA oversee these fields, where soil was found to have elevated lead levels. The remediation of these ballfields is scheduled to be completed by spring 2020.

John Butz, landscape architect, presents the new design for the soccer field enclosed by a running track in Red Hook (Photo:
Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein)

Landscape architect John S. Butz of Abel Bainnson Butz, LLP presented his firm’s design for the ball fields located southeast of the recreation center (map here), with a running track and wide baseball fields. These fields are not under the guidance of the EPA, but will use the agency’s same standards to attempt remediation of the lead-tainted soil.

To remediate the soil inside the running track and on the ballfields, contractors will remove the first foot of soil and replace it with clean cover. Artificial turf will then be laid down. In the areas surrounding trees, minimal soil will be removed. Orange plastic snow fencing will be embedded in the soil to alert future excavators of potential hazards.

The section closest to Bay Street that’s used as a picnic area and grilling zone, will be permanently fenced off because it is too difficult to remove enough soil in this area to make it completely safe for children to play on. New grills and picnic benches will be installed to the south of the running track where locals can eat and relax instead. Hot coal disposal bins will be added as well.

Old barricades will be replaced, new lights will be added, and the park’s entrance on Bay Street will be moved to the corner. There will be two adult fitness stations added as well as portable storage units for sports teams to use.

Marlene Pantin of the Red Hook Conservancy, raised concerns about the new basketball court that would replace a handball court. So many people play handball there, that “if you try to get a court on Sunday, you can’t.” She also wanted to make sure that dog waste bag disposal boxes are installed, as dog waste is apparently a problem in Red Hook.

Kara Allen, who suffers from asthma, wanted to make sure the grills weren’t located too close to the running track, or new adult fitness stations.

The committee voted to recommend the design with a few conditions: the handball court will remain, there will be year-round access to water in the comfort station, a way to transport coal ash from grills to coal bins will be provided, proximity of the grills to the exercise areas will be considered, and dog waste bag dispensers will be installed.

The field is still in the design stage which should be completed by April, with construction expected to be completed by spring 2020.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting was Davey Ives, Brooklyn Chief of Staff for the NYC Parks Department. Ives laid out the capital projects currently funded in CB6, noting one area of concern being the new turf that will be used in the dog run at Washington Park.

The turf has only been used in two parks before, one in Kensington and one in Manhattan, but, Ives said, it has been successfully used in Philadelphia for five years. It is more sanitary than “pee pebbles” or the stone mesh that dogs tend to tear up. And there is less dust than other methods.

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