Ferry Point Park's Synthetic Field Is Still Closed Six Months After Sandy

By Patrick Wall on April 29, 2013 6:43am 

THROGS NECK — There is little Barbara Lopez and her Honduras Unidos soccer league won’t do to play on the $3.6 million synthetic-turf soccer field at Ferry Point Park.

Each season, the league coughs up several thousand dollars for a Parks Department permit.

After each game, Lopez and a crew of paid helpers linger for hours filling dozens of garbage bags, since no Parks employees are permanently stationed at Ferry Point.

Each week, the league lugs cases of bottled water to the park, since it lacks running water for its fountains.

They even convinced a sponsor to rent a few portable toilets for the field, since the park has no comfort station.

But despite all its efforts, the league won’t get to use the synthetic-turf field this year, since six months after Hurricane Sandy the field remains warped by the storm.

Instead, the league has been relocated to a mostly dirt field at the rear of the park, which Lopez says is less playable and more dangerous than the damaged synthetic field.

“It’s really sad — I feel worried all the time,” Lopez said. “It’s like we’re out in the cold.”

Ferry Point Park sprawls across the borough’s far southeast corner, hugging the East River.

When Sandy struck in late October, the river surged and drowned the synthetic-turf field with 2 feet of water, according to Dorothea Poggi, president of Friends of Ferry Point Park.

The flooding caused ridges under the field, which will likely require the turf to be lifted and the field beneath it re-graded, according to the Parks Department.

The agency said the field damage was not immediately visible and that it must still visit the site with FEMA officials before it can determine the scope and timeline of the repairs.

Lopez, however, said she had asked the department to do this for months, hoping to have the field fixed before her season started this month.

“Since January, I’ve been telling them to check the field,” Lopez said. “And they’re just coming out here now.”

 A player chases a ball on the new synthetic-turf field at Ferry Point Park.
A player chases a ball on the new synthetic-turf field at Ferry Point Park.
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DNAinfo/Patrick Wall

While the agency has yet to repair some fields or remove mounds of debris half a year after the storm, it has accomplished a remarkable amount since Sandy, said Holly Leicht, executive director of the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks.

“It was a pretty incredible response, given the extent of the damage,” Leicht said, noting, for example, that “tens of thousands” of trees were impacted by the storm.

Boosted by FEMA funds and volunteers, the agency set reasonable priorities after the storm, Leicht said: remove safety hazards, reopen closed parks, then tend to badly damaged beaches.

Now it must complete less critical, but still necessary clean up and repairs, she added.

In the meantime, Lopez and her league are stuck at the far end of Ferry Point Park, their AstroTurf field substituted for one made largely of dirt, pocked by small mounds and glass shards.

After rain, the field becomes a muddy lake, Lopez said. Last year, another league's player sliced open his forearm when he fell on a piece of glass there, she said.

And instead of the 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. sessions her league enjoyed on its normal field, its permit for the rear field begins at 1 p.m., Lopez added.

As a result of the relocation, several teams have either dropped out of the league or did not sign up this season, she said. Instead of her usual 14 teams, Lopez now counts eight in her league.

“As bad as that is,” she said recently, staring in the direction of her cherished synthetic-turf field while standing on a mound in the dirt field, “this is worse.”

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