Turf is the way to go

KEARNY – 

Real grass seems to be headed out with the dinosaurs these days for Kearny’s municipal playing fields.

The town is applying for $743,000 in Hudson County Community Block Grant funds to put toward the acquisition and installation of synthetic turf at Veterans’ Field on Belgrove Drive near Bergen Ave.

Veterans’ Field accommodates one Little League baseball field and a combination football/softball field.

Mayor Alberto Santos and the Town Council held a public hearing on the CDBG application at the March 16 council meeting and no one from the public had any comments on it.

This is the second municipal recreation complex that the town is aiming to resurface, the other being the Gunnell Oval facility off Schuyler Ave., although the motivation for that project is keyed to an environmental cleanup of the site.

When all is said and done, the proposed Oval improvements, according to the town’s engineering experts, could run upwards of $16 million. The fix-up would include raising the elevation of the land, putting in a pump station and drainage system and a retaining wall as a buffer for E. Midland Ave. homeowners. The town is seeking outside funding sources to pay for it all.

Meanwhile, Santos said that the town is focusing on Veterans’ Field as a desperately needed temporary replacement for the several fields at the Oval that are currently off-line.

Santos said that playing area is used by both adults and more than 250 youngsters ages 18 and younger.

“There’s a high demand on our fields and installing synthetic turf will allow for increased usage,” Santos said.

Fourth Ward Councilman Michael Landy, who chairs the Recreation Committee, said that with the Oval off limits, “The hope is to minimize the impact on our [municipal] sports programs,” but he said that would be tough to achieve, given that Veterans’ Field hosts football and fall baseball from August through Thanksgiving and girls’ softball and Little League during spring and summer.

Assuming the town gets the CDBG money and goes ahead with bidding out the turf job, “one option we’re looking at is to do the baseball area at one time and leave the other end of the field open and schedule the other part of the field for another time.

“But we’re wary of shutting down Little League because we’d only have one field available [East field at the Oval],” he said.

“If we could do the work from, say, July, to when the winter starts, that’s all well and good, because we’d have two fields. The third option is we wait and do the Oval first. We should decide in the next month or two.”

Still, even if the town succeeds in getting the CDBG cash, it will need a lot more dough to do the work, Santos said, since the total project cost has been estimated at $1,786,000.

And the outlook for snagging the CDBG funding isn’t good, the mayor conceded. He said the expectation is that, given the full-court pressure by Republican legislators to button down federal spending, “the expectation is that Congress will reduce the pot of federal dollars available. We don’t know if [the CDBG allocation to counties] will be fully funded.”

 – Ron Leir 

The Observer Staff