Rally held at Red Hook Ballfields, by Nathan Weiser


Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez speaks to the group.

On Saturday, May 6, a group of Red Hook residents and local government officials gathered at Hicks and Lorraine to share ideas, opinions and facts on the state of Red Hook’s parks – a number of which have been closed for some time due to pollution.

People are upset that yet another baseball season has come with the ballfields still shut. This is the third year in a row without the local Little League and bar league softball.

“People just did not understand,” City Councilman Carlos Menchaca said. “A lot of people in the community just did not know anything that was happening. Our job is to make sure that everybody has good information.”

Menchaca said that residents have to be patient, that there is a timeline and that that construction will start in 2018.

“We want to make sure that everybody knows that the government has been working really hard to make sure that every dollar has been allocated to make sure that every field gets reconstructed,” he added. “That is the power of community and that is the power that got us a fully funded project for every field.”

“The cleanup of ball fields 5-8 and 9 under EPA oversight will involve removing all park features such as fencing, some of the trees, curbing and other structures, adding a physical and visual barrier to contaminated soil, and then covering the barrier with one foot of clean soil and natural or artificial over the entire area,” according to a community update from the EPA.

Fields 5-8 are currently closed without any visible work being done and Field 9 is open. In an effort to not have all fields closed at once, Ball Fields 5-8 are being cleaned up first, and once they are re-opened, Ball Field 9 will be cleaned up.

According to a community update from last year, NYC Parks expects to start the cleanup of Ball Fields 5-8 in late summer 2017 and complete it in fall of 2018. NYC Parks estimated that Ball Field 9 will be cleaned up by spring of 2020. The soccer field inside of the track and the four baseball fields in the back of the complex near IKEA are also currently closed due to remediation.

A Red Hook resident said, “I understand that they found out about this first in 2009, that there was lead. It is now eight years later. So they knew about it before 2015? 2015 is when they did some patchwork.

“It was 2015,” Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez answered. “When the EPA tested and it came back that there were levels that were beyond what federal law says is admissible then they called the city and said we have serious issues here.”
The city allocated $100 million to rebuilding this park, according to Velazquez. She said that it will be a comprehensive cleanup that will last for years to come. But testing is not done overnight and they need to collect data.

Wally Bazemore, a longtime Red Hook resident and a leader of a new local group called “The Village of Red Hook” – is unhappy at what his group perceives as the slow pace of remediation. His group called the rally as he believes that pressure needs to be kept on city officials .

“Pressure was put on them, so we got to keep pressure on them and keep the fire on them,” Bazemore said. “We have to support those that support our community because if we don’t we become persona non grata. I keep telling people that this is the second largest housing development in the U.S.A with over 6,000 people. We should be flooded here with kids, parents and the street should be filled.”

“Anytime we have a federal, city or state hearing we have to come out and demand accountability, not only from out politicians but ourselves. We have to raise the bar. We have to get off our behinds because the future doesn’t look good while that gentleman is down there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He has an agenda and we are not part of his agenda.”

Another speaker took the opportunity to bring up other local issues.

Residents complain about conditions in the NYCHA buildings.

“We have a building that is out right now with no electricity. We can’t have this Nydia. At the Miccio the pool table is on the floor. I would appreciate after this day that not only we have meetings but that we will have something done about it,” the Red Hook resident said.

Menchaca tried to get everyone to commit to coming to the next meeting that the EPA and Parks will have.

“The last thing I want to ask everyone here is that how many of you are committing to each other right now to come to the meeting that the Parks Department and the EPA and all of the agencies are going to have? How many are going to come?”

Dan Wiley, the community coordinator for Velazquez, gave some explanations about the ballfield cleanup. The remediation involves adding 12 inches of clean soil, a drainage layer and synthetic turf. He said that to do that you need approvals and that the money is in place. This is the long-term solution for cleaning the fields.

Woody, a Red Hook Houses resident in his 60’s grew up in the neighborhood said that a lot more people used the ballfields when he was growing up. He said:
“This is the spring but the summer is almost here. The kids need baseball fields. You could walk over there and there would be a game here, a game there, a game there and a game here. There would be four games at one time. This is baseball season. I don’t know what they are doing.”

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