2001-03-03 / Sports

Fields Of Dreams Come Back To City Schools

Fields Of Dreams Come Back To City Schools

By Emanuel Jalonschi

Ask a recent graduate of the New York City High School system about their team’s home field and two-thirds of them will respond, "what home field?" Out of the 180 high schools in the city, only 60 of them have athletic fields. Out of those 60 fields, maybe ten are in good, usable condition.

What is the city’s response to this serious problem? Eliminating all 170 million dollars from the five-year budget that were supposed to be directed toward remedying the situation.

The public sector has dropped the ball, yet again, and the city’s youth will pay the price, yet again. Consider these statistics compiled in a recent New York Times investigation. In a Queens college survey of 1,500 randomly chosen New York City high schoolers, more than half of them show at least one major risk factor for heart disease. In most cases, the factor is related to excess weight and a lack of physical exercise. It also affects the very immediate future of city teens in a personal manner. The investigation revealed that teenage girls that are involved in sports stand half the chance of getting pregnant when juxtaposed to girls that are not athletically active.

You’d think that with all these factors, this would be more highly prioritized issue. Out of all major cities, New York is near the bottom in student participation in school athletics with a paltry rate of 12 percent. Even in 1974-75, when the late Mayor Abe Beame was about to drag us through a financial crisis, the city spent more money on the athletics program. Truly, this is a sad state of affairs.

Thankfully, there are philanthropists in every age. The heroes this time are the leaders of Take The Field. This program is being headed up by Preston Robert Tisch, chairman of the New York Giants, developer Richard Kahan and philanthropist Tony Kiser.

They plan to spend a total 16 million dollars to improve and rebuild at least one field in each borough this year. The schools that are due to be fixed are South Bronx High School (Bronx), Brooklyn Tech High School (Brooklyn), George Washington High School (Manhattan), William C. Bryant High School (Queens), Port Richmond High School (Staten Island), Seward Park High School (Manhattan) and local Far Rockaway High School.

This investment is actually a combination of public and private interests. Approximately ten million dollars will be provided in the form of a challenge grant to be included in the fiscal 2001 budget. The mayor, not often well reputed for his support of public education, and the New York City Council, have decided to support the program. Also committing significant funds to the first phase are State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden and Queens Borough President Claire Shulman.

Take The Field, Inc. ultimately wants to "try to rebuild dozens of public school athletic fields." They recognize the limited funds of the public sector and, as a non-profit organization, hope to use their resources and expertise to improve the very needy fields. They are working with Jack L. Gordon Architects who are also working on the KeySpan Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones.

With the help of Take The Field, Inc., local schools will once again be able to produce both healthy bodies and minds. It’s good to see private industry helping the communities that support it.

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