Turf the Slab in the Community


I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by two truly impressive 2nd grade classes at Community Roots here in Fort Greene.  The students are hard at work on an annual park study, in which they research and design their own park space.  This year, their imaginations are focused on Commodore Barry Park, only a stone’s throw from their school, so the children were curious to know how a campaign like Turf the Slab is proposing changes to the park.  I would like to thank teachers and students for a truly wonderful experience, and I am really looking forward to seeing what you all dream up!

Track and Field Day 10-14-2013 257I was especially excited to see some familiar Community Roots faces join hundreds of other young people for the second annual Track and Field Day that Turf the Slab was proud to co-host with the stellar team at Young Rock Soccer Academy. The event was a major success thanks to master organizer Michael Randazzo, all the amazing athletes from LIU and Pratt, the fun-loving LIU Blackbird, Fort Greene Sports, Hip Tot Music, all our generous sponsors, and the hardworking policemen and women of the 88th Precinct who safely oversaw an endless number of ascents up their climbing wall. Special thanks also go out to Commodore Barry believer Tish James, who made a rockstar appearance on the heels of her Public Advocate victory, Assemblyman Walter Mosley, Jelani Mashiriki, and all the other leaders who took time out of their busy Columbus Day schedules to come cheer on the kids! And on a personal note, I want to express my deep appreciation to coaches Musa Kadiri, Magnus Mukoro, Bob Byer, and Lloyd Rodriguez whose advice and leadership means everything, and will be indispensable in making Commodore Barry a real home field for local youth sports. And lastly, to all the parents and kids who joined the fun and brought us over 200 petition signatures, you are the soul of our campaign, and our efforts would be impossible without your support, and your spirit. Thank you all so much…and stay tuned!  Below are some memories from the big day courtesy of photographer Bob Dea.


Let’s End Local Turf Wars!

IMG_1145I recently spoke to the coach for George Westinghouse High School’s boys soccer team while they practiced at Commodore Barry Park.  Like every other local coach in the area, he was ecstatic about the prospect of building a proper playing field right here.  In fact, according to a NY Daily News article, Westinghouse has actually been forced to forfeit games because conditions on the grass field at Commodore Barry Park were deemed unsafe and unfit for play.  In the same article, a Public School Athletic League (PSAL) official explains there are not enough fields to cover the games that need to be played.  Between school teams and independent sports programs, local demand for fields is increasing, and the improperly maintained fields at Commodore Barry are all that exists.  In the past, a few programs have arranged to use Brooklyn Tech’s private Charles B. Wang Field (Fulton and Clermont), only to be run off over scheduling and insurance hassles.  You can click here to read about that unfortunate saga, and stay tuned for reports on Marty Markowitz’s misguided multi-million dollar lame duck appropriation to upgrade that very same, very healthy, very private Brooklyn Tech field.  Because they want to right these wrongs, and give local kids a real home field at long last, coaches in our community are backing Turf the Slab.


Fort Greene Sports

Bob Byer, Founder and Director of Fort Greene Sports, and a community institution, is with us “1000 percent”, and stresses that many local sports need a home.  Magnus Mukoro and Musa Kadiri from Young Rock Soccer, will be supporting the cause by hosting a big family-friendly Columbus Day Track and Field Day in Commodore Barry in October 14 from Noon – 4pm, so mark your calendars!

Young Rock Soccer Academy

Young Rock Soccer Academy

Even the folks at Brooklyn Sporting Goods, who know the local sports community perhaps better than anyone, think making Commodore Barry a flagship sports park is a “no-brainer”.   We are grateful for the support we are getting from coaches, parents, and the whole community, and encourage everyone to put real pressure on incoming District 35 Councilwoman, Laurie Cumbo, and Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams, who will need to deliver the necessary funding.  If you have not already done so, please click here to sign and share the petition, and do take a second to click those little buttons on the right sidebar to “Like” us on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter so we can show our strength in numbers.

Same Site, New Name

TURFLOGOFBWelcome to the blog formerly known as fortgreenesoccer.wordpress.com!  After a successful petition drive, we are now up on Twitter and Facebook, so please “Like” and “Follow” us with the handy buttons right there on our sidebar. We want to keep the whole neighborhood posted on the latest developments, especially plans for a fun, family-friendly event we will be co-hosting with Young Rock Soccer and other great community groups in Commodore Barry Park in October.  Stay tuned…

P.S.  Special thanks to Abby Wiessman for designing Turf the Slab’s new logo!

A Taste of Fort Greene’s Future!

Big props go out to everyone who worked or played at AFROPUNK Fest 2013!  It is a great Fort Greene summer tradition, and we can hardly wait to see the lineup for 2014!  Turf the Slab was particularly excited to see a long procession of food trucks lining Navy Street and bicyclists swarming around Commodore Barry Park. Welcome to the future!photo

Turf the Slab wants Commodore Barry Park to be a community destination more than once a year.  Why not every weekend, day and night?  Imagine gleaming new turf fields crowded with athletes young and old, with an endless parade of runners circling them on a Mondo track.  The crowds come out to cheer them all on. Bicyclists stop to catch a breath.  And everybody lines up to grab a bite.  A regular crowd is great engine for local entrepreneurs, and food trucks could not ask for better, more reliable customers than hungry sports fans in a veritable food desert. Just ask the pupusa truck at the Red Hook ballfields!

Let there be light, and so much more!

soccer_nightBREAKING NEWS:  The proposal to turf the slab in Commodore Barry now includes lights!  Lights mean more fun for everyone.  When adults take advantage of extended hours that leaves more daytime play for kids, and we all get a safer park in the bargain. And while we’re talking upgrades to Commodore Barry, it is worth explaining that “turfing the slab” is only the beginning.  The ultimate hope is that a new multi-use sports field with lights will promote a total makeover of the baseball fields and other facilities to serve even more sports.  The Parade Ground in Prospect Park is a good example:

Map of the modern Parade Ground by Christian Zimmerman Drawing courtesy Prospect Park Alliance

Prospect Park Parade Ground boasts baseball, soccer, football, and multi-use fields

And for the growing population of joggers beating their knees and ankles on the Fort Greene Park loop, the cherry on top could be a rubberized “Mondo” running track like the one in McCarren Park.


Rubberized “Mondo” running track in McCarren Park in Williamsburg

Let’s hear from you.  What other sports or activities would you most like to see find a home in Commodore Barry?  Please vote in the poll below.  Choose a sport, or add your own in the “Other” box, and press the vote button.

The Pitch for a Pitch in Commodore Barry Park

For those who have never spent time in Commodore Barry Park, it is a beautiful park right here in Fort Greene that happens to sit at a major crossroads of Brooklyn neighborhoods, surrounded by bike lanes and greenways.  This little photographic tour illustrates the case for a mixed-use turf soccer pitch there.  The park already boasts two baseball fields, a sizable swimming pool, two basketball courts, two hand ball courts, a paddle ball court, a large playground, and a newly landscaped greenspace with shady trees and chess tables.  Every inch of the park has a purpose, except that big, unloved concrete slab in the top left corner of this map…


Here is a panorama of “The Slab”…


If the Parks Department agreed to turf this lot, with some capital assistance from community partners, it would be an instant home for soccer (and mixed use athletics) in our neighborhood.  It could serve local youth leagues and schools who lack access to fields, and it could give adult leagues a home field.  Such all-ages appeal would attract families…and hopefully food trucks.


Plenty of room in the shade for permanent seating for fans


A vast unused space in the developing Navy Yard and Admiral’s Row district

Community events, like the popular Afropunk Fest in late August, could absolutely still do their thing on turf.  Folks can flock to this corner of the park (at Flushing Avenue and Navy Street) where a nexus of local bike paths and new bike share routes connect Fort Greene to other destination neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, and Dumbo.


At the crossroads of Brooklyn’s busiest bike routes and greenways

The Navy Yard and Admiral’s Row are right across the street.  Admiral’s Row was transferred to the City last year, supposedly for development of a major supermarket for the 13,000 residents of the three housing projects nearby.  Suffice it to say the immediate area is about to get busy.  In the shadow of the BQE, Commodore Barry’s brightening presence can also bridge the discouraging divide of Park Avenue and stitch the Navy Yard district into the fabric of Fort Greene…


Just two blocks for Fort Greene’s other historical park!


A green oasis in the shadow of the BQE

Inviting food trucks into the mix, as they exist in Red Hook and elsewhere, is an exciting possibility.  Commodore Barry is full of potential parking locations, under the BQE being perhaps the most intriguing, and weatherproof…

photo-2 copy

Plenty of all-weather parking, especially for local entrepreneurs with food trucks


Now a divide, Park Avenue could be a seam sewing the fabric of Ft. Greene together

And lastly, it is worth mentioning that the park has a park station with restrooms…


A large park station with restrooms

There is so much to love about Commodore Barry Park, and recent improvements are proof that the Parks Department wants it to be a community destination.  Turfing the concrete lot just seems like the perfect finishing touch to the park’s facelift, and would solve a critical lack of local fields available for wildly popular local sports like soccer and football.  I look forward to discussing this exciting proposal with local leaders and neighbors alike, and encourage everyone to chime in by voting in this blog’s polls (click here) and sharing your thoughts in the comments.  Thank you!


Two baseball fields are a sea of green where neighbors come to play and cheer



A permanent home for local sports in Brooklyn’s greatest neighborhood!

Columbus Day Plan: Fort Greene Track & Field Day for Kids!!!

attachment-2Turf the Slab is proud to be teaming up with Young Rock Soccer Academy to host the second annual Track and Field Day for Kids at Commodore Barry Park (Flushing Avenue and Navy Street) on Columbus Day – Monday,  October 14 – from Noon to 4pm!  Come join athletes from LIU Brooklyn and Pratt Institute, as well as the NYPD 88th Precinct, for a great afternoon of free fun and fitness.

Activities include:

– Track and field events with the LIU and Pratt track teams

– Fantastic fitness exercises with the LIU Sports Science Department

– Lacrosse demonstrations with the LIU women’s lacrosse

– Basketball skills with the LIU women’s basketball team

– Soccer skills and scrimmages with Young Rock

– A visit from LIU’s mascot, “The Blackbird”

– The NYPD climbing wall

Bring the whole family out for a fun-filled afternoon, and a glimpse of Commodore Barry’s incredible potential to be a flagship public sports park for the entire Fort Greene community.  All are welcome.  We look forward to seeing you there!

If you have any questions about the event, please contact Michael Randazzo at michael@youngrocksoccer.us

AFROPUNK 2013 This Weekend!

Afropunk-2013-Line-upThis weekend, AFROPUNK Fest returns to “The Slab” in Commodore Barry Park for two amazing days and nights.  AFROPUNK is Fort Greene at its best, with an irresistible lineup that includes Chuck D, ?uestlove, Jean Grae, Death, and so many others.  Come for the music, but stay for the marketplace of local wares, art, and food. The festival runs Saturday, August 24 and Sunday, August 25.  You can click here to learn more and check schedules.  Turf the Slab is a strong supporter of AFROPUNK and has every intention of making it a permanent part of the Commodore Barry Park summer experience.  See you there!

“Permit” me to explain…

We often hear concern about the cost of field use permits, so let’s price them out.  In Prospect Park, field use for sports like soccer, football, frisbee, etc. runs $16/hour without lights, and $25/hour with lights.  If you play with 20 players (10 on a side) that works out to 80 cents per person without lights, and $1.25 per person with lights, which sounds like a real bargain. By comparison, a full season tennis permit costs $200.  A single play tennis reservation costs $15, and you can only split that cost among a maximum of four people on a court.

The inaugural season of Brooklyn Bridge Park's youth soccer league.

The inaugural season of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s youth soccer league.

Brooklyn Bridge Park recently began a youth soccer league that costs a mere $25 per player for a 10 game season, and that covers use of a gorgeous new turf field, a coach, one weekly practice, and a team T-shirt!

If cost is an issue for players, many local businesses and organizations in this community-minded neighborhood of ours would be thrilled to sponsor local sports teams, especially in youth programs.  Sponsors will happily cover the cost of permits, and can even supply uniforms and refreshments to boot. If you have a team seeking sponsorship, or if you are a local business seeking sponsorship opportunities, please email turftheslab@gmail.com or feel free to leave your information in the comments.

The Brooklyn Paper Touts The Slab

FortGreene_1978HD“Turf the Slab” recently made some ink in the latest Brooklyn Paper.  While the article downplays the real promise of Commodore Barry Park, it does highlight the fact that turfing the oval in Fort Greene Park is a nonstarter.  The park is landmarked, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) would never approve a turf field.  In fact, the LPC could not even accept an application for such work unless it was fully funded to the tune of roughly $3 million (more with lights). The burden to raise that mountain of money would fall on local elected officials who would never waste political capital on a project bound for certain failure.  Even if pigs flew, approvals alone would take years and would spark nothing but conflict in the community, inflicting far more harm than any soccer players kicking up dust ever did.  People should understand that the turfing process itself is not as simple as rolling a nice green carpet over the dustbowl.  It would require heavy machinery to excavate and level the oval several feet down to pour a cement foundation and build a drainage system.  This would all necessarily take place in warmer months, so the park would be a construction site in peak season.  Then, once you turf and infill, Parks would be obligated to build a tall chain link fence cage around the entire field for safety.  They could also make a case for lights so youth sports can clock more daytime hours, with some adult demand moved after dark.  Let’s face facts, turfing the oval is just a losing proposition all around, and one that even the Dustbowl soccer players themselves reject outright.


A turf field caged in chain link fencing is not a good look for Fort Greene Park’s oval, but it’s absolutely perfect for “The Slab” at Commodore Barry Park.

Turf the Slab’s plan has no such hang ups, and is practically “shovel ready”.   Commodore Barry Park may be Brooklyn’s historic first park, but it is not landmarked.  Parks would love to make Commodore Barry a dazzling flagship, and with the Navy Yard and Admiral’s Row developing rapidly, local leaders know that improvements to Commodore Barry are wise and sustainable investments in our community.  And most importantly, any local citizen who visits Commodore Barry Park can so clearly see its incredible potential to host sports and events, and to bridge divided areas of Fort Greene at long last.  With gleaming new turf fields and a Mondo track for runners, Commodore Barry could be a vibrant green oasis at the crossroads of Brooklyn’s most exciting neighborhoods.  The people of Fort Greene deserve a real home field and Turf the Slab wants to help deliver it.  Follow us and stay tuned for the latest news and special announcements from now through local elections this fall.

Olanike Alabi Responds…

ola1Olanike Alabi, a candidate looking to fill Tish James’ council seat here in District 35, has responded with a commitment to build at least one home field for local sports in Fort Greene and supports the choice of Commodore Barry Park.  Her answers are as follows (in bold/italics):

  1. If elected, will you commit to building at least one field for soccer and other local sports in our neighborhood? Yes.
  2. Do you support building a turf field with lights on the empty concrete slab in Commodore Barry Park? Yes.
  3. Would you go a step further and push for a total renovation of Commodore Barry Park, including a Mondo running track for local runners and other mixed-use fields for a variety of local sports? Commodore Barry Park has been partly renovated already.  I would however like to see a mixed-use field for a variety of local sports.

We thank Ms. Alabi for her participation in our informal “Turf the Slab” candidates forum and we look forward to hearing from the other candidates soon!