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Former Assemblyman’s fields of dreams

The Brooklyn Paper
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A dream of ballfields along the Gowanus Canal has rolled into the far left field of history.

Former Carroll Gardens Assemblyman (perhaps better known as Sacred Heart third-baseman) Frank Verderami has, after 33 years, given up on seeing the local sports complex that was promised for the vacant lot at Smith and Fifth streets.

City officials announced last week a proposal to build 500-600 units of housing and a public waterfront esplanade at the 5.8-acre canal-front site, officially called the “Public Place for Recreational Purposes.”

“They think [housing] is the best use for the land,” the 77-year old Little League veteran said last Thursday, following a presentation by the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development.

Verderami, who left office in 1972, supports affordable housing on the five-acre site, “especially senior housing,” he said.

But he came to last week’s meeting to remind city officials of their own 1978 recommendation that 70 percent of the land be set aside for the Ebbets Field of Little League (bonus: unlike the Dodgers, these players wouldn’t leave town, at least until graduating high school.)

“This was called ‘the public place for recreational purposes’ for a reason,” he said, clutching a manila folder of yellowing city documents marked with city letterheads going back 30 years.

Along with its prime location between hip Smith Street and Park Slope’s trendy edge, the Public Place’s size makes it vital.

Verderami has been waiting long time, but he’ll have to wait longer. Before any development can happen, Keyspan must complete a state-supervised cleanup of its oil-laced soil.

“Who knows if I’ll live to see anything built there,” he said.

Updated 4:27 pm, July 9, 2018
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