It’s a long road to recovery for Fort Hamilton High School’s track and field, say students, teachers, parents and even strangers to the school, all of whom have banded together to launch a growing petition in favor of a multi-million dollar makeover.
It’s been more than 10 years since the track, field and tennis and basketball courts have been renovated and, being the only regulation track and football field in the area open to the public, Ridgeites fear what should be a safe place for kids is simply an accident waiting to happen.
“It was last renovated in 2001 and it is only designed to last 10 years,” stressed Fort Hamilton High School Student Organization President Nick Koven at a February 23 Community Board 10 meeting, held at the Norwegian Christian Home, 1250 67th Street.
More than 4,300 students utilize the track and field each school year while local residents are welcome to use it on the weekends.
When in use, Koven said, the disarray of the complex is crystal clear.
“It’s impossible to run through any lane in the track without encountering massive torn up holes,” he said, adding that, “Any game of football and soccer on the field is guaranteed to be disrupted by torn up pieces of Astroturf.”
In addition, he contended, the tennis, basketball and handball courts “act as a lake” at the first drop of rain.
The restoration of the track, field and courts will cost an estimated $10 million, according to numbers given to the student organization by the New York City Parks Department. An estimated $6 million is needed to spruce up the athletic field, which students say is sinking, while the track and the courts will need an estimated $2 million each.
“The residents, athletes and students of Bay Ridge deserve an athletic complex that fits their needs,” Koven said, thanking Community Board 10 for including the face-lift in its list of capital budget priorities and encouraging members to add their names to a 1,000-plus signature petition he said was growing daily.
“It’s a shame that in 13 years they let the field come to this,” wrote signee and Fort Hamilton alum Janine Comeau in the comment section of the online petition. “This was a huge deal when it was re-done the first time and needs to be taken care of.”
Syed Naqvi, a local resident who claims to have suffered a radial fracture due to the cracks in the track’s surrounding concrete, strongly agreed.
“I have used this facility on a daily basis for the past three years and can attest to the fact that [it] needs renovating,” wrote Naqvi, stressing the integral role the complex has played in producing star athletes such as NFL player Jaiquawn Jarrett, who played for the New York Jets from 2013 to 2014. “Think of how many more could follow in Mr. Jarrett’s path if they had access to a safe practice and play facility.”
Student Marisa Petrusky has had a similar experience with the basketball courts.
“As a student athlete at Fort Hamilton, I can attest to the sub-par conditions of the park,” she said. “A teammate of mine twisted her ankle after tripping over the immense gravel build-up on the harsh concrete basketball courts. Without a doubt, the consequences of her injury would not have been as serious had we played on an adequate surface.”
“A high school without a good athletic field is not really a high school,” wrote signee Darren Chen.
The appeal, available at Change.org, urges local politicians to help make ends meet.
“We need your help,” said Koven. “We encourage [local politicians] to keep the Fort Hamilton track and field a priority and to continue working to allocate those funds this year.”