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LIU Plan to Expand Athletic Field Angers Neighbors

By Janet Upadhye | July 26, 2013 8:56am
 LIU's expansion plan would include the closing of some sidewalks and the addition of new public spaces.
LIU Athletic Field Expansion
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FORT GREENE — Long Island University wants to expand the school's Brooklyn athletic field, adding concession stands, stadium seating and new lights, officials announced at a recent public hearing.

The university's current field along Ashland Place is too small for NCAA Division I games, and with five LIU teams sharing the same sports field, officials say it's time to grow.

"Programmatically LIU needs to expand the dimension of those fields so they can have regulation soccer and baseball games on their campus," said William Kentworthey of architecture and urban design firm Cooper, Robertson & Partners, who is working with LIU. "Today because of dimensional constraints of their land, post-season games have been forced to be played off their campus."

The field expansion would mean narrowing — and in some locations closing — city sidewalks on Willoughby Street and Ashland Place, angering some residents who spoke out against the project at a public hearing Monday night.

"A lot of residents have a lot of serious concerns," said Ron Onero who lives at 175 Willoughby St. across the street from the sports field.

Onero named increased traffic congestion, light pollution and LIU's lack of communication with local residents as some of the community's concerns about the plan.

"Why are the communities surrounding the university not being addressed?" he asked. "It’s all about LIU."

But lawyer Ken Fisher, who represents LIU, told the residents the university planned to add amenities for the public, including a new public plaza, street lights, a seating area, drinking fountains, 40 new trees and a space for works of art by LIU students — all outside the campus walls.

"Streetscape improvements were designed to improve the quality of life for the surrounding community," Fisher said.

Still, some residents were wary.

"Now there will be new 700 seats, concessions stands, lights, traffic and ticket sales happening right outside my window," said local resident Catherine Del Buono. "Things are only going to get worse."

The estimated cost for the entire project is $7.5 million. The borough president has allocated $500,000 in city capital budget during the next fiscal year and LIU is in the process of fundraising the rest. The entire project is expected to take two years and, pending Uniform Land Use Review Procedure approval by the city, the first phase could be complete as early as summer 2014.

Community Board 2 will weigh in on the ULURP application at a meeting Sept. 11, 2013.