By Julie Shapiro
BATTERY PARK CITY — The new sports field in West Thames Park is still little more than a mud puddle, more than eight months after its ceremonious opening.
The field's grass died almost immediately after children first began playing on it last summer, and since then it has drawn complaints from residents who are upset that their highly anticipated, promised field is just a large stretch of dirt.
"It's very unpleasant," said Robert Mueller, a board member at the Battery Park City Authority. "It's right in the middle of everything … It's such an obvious eyesore in a place where we have no eyesores."
Mueller, who lives in Battery Park City, said at a board meeting this week that his neighbors kept asking him what's going on with the field.
Gayle Horwitz, president of the Battery Park City Authority, replied that the contractor who built the park used the wrong kind of sod. The sod has a layer of clay underneath it, which prevented drainage and stopped the grass from growing, she said.
The State Department of Transportation, which built the park for the authority, planned to install new sod in April or May, a spokesman said. The field will then be closed for several weeks while the root knits into the soil, so the new grass lawn will not be ready until mid-June at the earliest.
Jessica Weitzman, 38, a Battery Park City resident who brought her 7-year-old son to the park recently, said the mud didn't stop kids from playing on the field, much to their parents' chagrin.
"They have literally destroyed their clothing," Weitzman said. However, she added, "We're so desperate for [playing] space — at least we have some space to run around."
Sunita Iyer, 40, another neighborhood mother, said the lawn was perfect when it was covered by snow this winter, but the springtime mud puddles are becoming a problem.
"I hope they'll fix it," Iyer said. "It's one of the only fields that's open [year-round]."
The lawn is just one part of the new West Thames Park, which also includes basketball courts, community gardens and a playground that used to have a controversial tire swing that injured several children. The state planned to reinstall the tire swing this spring, at the request of Community Board 1, but they had not set a date, a spokesman said.