RED HOOK — NYC Parks officials need more time — and more money — to clean up the five most contaminated ballfields in Red Hook, community members were told Tuesday night.
The city-financed cleanup was previously estimated at $105 million and was expected to be completed by a rolling series of dates, first by the spring of 2018.
But now, officials said, they need another year for the fields — and they may need an unknown amount of additional funds.
"We are looking at that now. We are finalizing the cost," said Imelda Bernstein, the NYC Parks landscape architect for the first phase, told the dozens of people assembled at the Red Hook recreation center Tuesday night.
Parks designers have nearly completed plans for the cleanup for baseball fields 5, 6, 7 and 8, located on Lorraine Street directly across the street form the NYCHA Red Hook Houses. Those four fields are now expected to open for play in the fall of 2019, instead of late 2018.
Baseball field 9, located on Bay Street across the street from the Red Hook Recreation Center, will be complete in the spring of 2021 instead of spring 2020, they said.
All the other contaminated fields nearby will be cleaned up by 2023, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Significant lead contamination in the soil was likely caused by a smelting and refining facility located on the site of ballfield 7 in Red Hook in the mid-1920s to the late 1930s, according to the EPA. The city and EPA have been working on cleanup plans since 2014.
All the fields will be replaced with synthetic turf, which drains faster than natural dirt and grass, Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Martin Maher said. The improved drainage of the synthetic turf will be good for resiliency efforts if another Sandy-type storm hits again and for ball players who would otherwise have to wait longer for fields to dry out after a heavy rain, he said.
The new design for fields 5 through 8 calls for raising the ground up to the 100-year flood level and adds bioswales to the perimeters to absorb rainwater, Bernstein said.
Most of the Red Hook ballfields are currently closed but some could open this summer as the grass grows thick enough to offer temporary remediation that would make it safe enough to play, Maher said. Ballfield 9, for example, recently opened up for play. "We're monitoring that on a daily basis," he said.
About 60 people attended Tuesday's meeting, including Wally Bazemore, who grew up in the neighborhood and had been coaching teams at the fields before they closed.
"I was raised out here. I played baseball on these fields for 50 years," Bazemore said, noting he wonders if his own personal health problems could be related to the contamination. "That's why I'm so concerned about these kids."