FORT GREENE — The parents and leaders of a youth football league are asking city officials to install stadium lights at a local park so their children won’t have to play in the dark for yet another season.
The only light the Brooklyn Pitbulls get at the field in Commodore Barry Park after sunset in the fall comes from underneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, according to youth football director Lloyd Rodriguez.
“It makes it difficult for me to run plays, it makes it difficult for me to run schemes,” Rodriguez said. “I can’t really look for flaws in the technique. I’m restricted to certain drills.”
Rodriguez said he has players as young as 7 on the field, which is by the Park Avenue and Navy Street entrance, every day between 6 and 9 p.m. during fall practice.
While there's plenty of daylight when the team starts practicing in August, the fading light makes it harder for the team to practice at night as early as September, Rodriguez said.
The Parks Department said there is no current lighting project in the works for the park, but that it is open to working with city officials to fund a future project.
“Commodore Barry Field is not a lighted field, so all permitted use is required to end at dusk,” spokeswoman Maeri Ferguson said in an emailed statement.
“While there is no funding in place currently, Parks is always open to working with the community and local elected officials to secure funding for future developments such as lights.”
Four years ago, Rodriguez and his team's parents took matters into their own hands, pooling $300 to buy a pair of 1,000- and 1,500-watt lights at the Home Depot — along with a generator that he hooks them into on the field during late practices in the fall.
But Rodriguez said the two lights, which he angles at player height, are not a sustainable solution, because he can only point them in one direction and the light is limited.
“It’s not helping us, it just gives us some light so we can see what’s going on around us,” Rodriguez said.
Dezmond Smith, a 9-year-old from Clinton Hill who’s been on the peewee league for the last two seasons, said players sometimes can’t even see the ball.
“Sometimes when we’re doing passing plays, we can’t see the ball because it’s dark,” Smith said.
His mom, parent coordinator Shadise Blue, said her son is afraid he’ll get hurt while he’s on the field.
“He says he thinks they’re going to get hurt,” she said. “They practice tackle plays. They don’t play flag football — they play real football.”
But Blue’s main concern is her son’s safety while he’s getting to and from the field.
“When we’re out there in August, it’s OK, but when the time changes, we are out there in the dark, it’s pitch black,” Blue said.
“You’re scared to walk to the park at night because you can’t see anybody. Anything can happen because you can’t see what’s going on.”
Another mother, Pamela Thomas, shared similar concerns.
“When it gets dark, it gets really dark,” Thomas said. “You don’t see anything, you don’t see anyone.”
Thomas, who lives in the nearby Farragut Houses, said she doesn’t let her son Jayden, who just turned 10, walk home on his own from the park.
“I don’t leave during practice,” she said. “If I do leave, I get back before practice is over with. I don’t let him walk home by himself.”
Rodriguez, who has been attending community meetings across the city, said he has been reaching out to the parks department and to elected officials asking for lights at Commodore Barry.
But because the city’s budget for 2016 has already been set, the earliest the park could receive new funding would be 2017, a spokeswoman for City Council Member Laurie Cumbo said.
“We are very early on in the budget process,” spokeswoman Kristia Beaubrun said. “It’s a matter of assessing what the cost of that project would be.”
The Brooklyn Pitbulls begin spring training in April at McLaughlin Park, then take a break during the summer before returning to Commodore Barry Park on Aug. 1 for practice and games.
Rodriguez said the team will keep playing with the store-bought lights until the city can fund stadium lighting at the park.
“We’ve been doing it without lights. I don’t want to keep doing it without lights, but we’ll keep going until hopefully someone says, ‘Let’s get the lights out,’” Rodriguez said.