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On the road again! Automotive HS’s team has no home field

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One of Brooklyn’s best high school football teams is forced to play its home games at a rival high school’s field because the city and the school’s league won’t let the team play in McCarren Park across the street.

Automotive HS has not played a true home game — or heard the roar of a big hometown crowd — in its seven-year existence, even though there is a regulation-size football field in the adjacent park.

Instead, the team and its few diehards must travel 20 blocks to the Grand Street Campus, home to the Pistons’ bitter rivals, the Wolves.

“It doesn’t make us feel at home,” said former Pistons linebacker and tight end Joshua Smalls, who graduated this year. “We have less time to warm up and get prepared for the game. It’s definitely a disadvantage not to play close to home.”

Automotive coach Haseeb Khawaja says he’s frustrated by the obstacles his team must overcome beyond what happens on the gridiron. For example, because he lacks a home field, he can’t film his team’s games because he has no access to Grand Street Campus facilities. And even though the Pistons are the “home team” at the Grand Street Campus, the Automotive players lose valuable time in transit.

And consider this: The team’s “homecoming game” is on Sept. 11 — a mile from home.

The marching band even has to shell out for its own Metrocards to get to the Grand Street Campus.

Khawaja understands that other teams in the city share field space, but sees no substantial reason why his team can’t use McCarren Park’s synthetic field, which even has goalposts.

“Home-field advantage is definitely an intangible,” said Khawaja. “It makes the difference between championship teams and those who can’t get over the hump.”

That said, it didn’t make much of a difference last year, as Automotive went undefeated.

Government agencies are pointing fingers over why the school cannot play in the park. A Public School Athletic League official declined to comment, referring the matter to a Department of Education spokeswoman who said the field was “not conducive for football games” because of its lack of fencing.

“It creates too many obstacles and we don’t want to have any kind of furious accidents there,” said the spokeswoman, Marge Feinberg.

A Parks Department spokesman added that the athletic league’s rules state that the games must be played in places that are not open to the public. Four years ago, the Parks Department actually issued permits for two Pistons games in McCarren Park, but the city reversed course, citing security concerns.

Despite this disadvantage, the Pistons have turned its program around, going from an ugly 0-10 season four years ago to coming within one point of winning the championship in its division against South Bronx last fall.

The Pistons do have access to McCarren Park’s track for its practices, but for only one or two days a week due to high demand for space from other park users. For the other days, the Pistons play on the dusty, scuffed-up baseball fields and even the concrete softball courts behind the school. On those days, tackling of any kind is prohibited.

“We bring a lot of Band-Aids, iodine and disinfectants for cuts and bruises when we play on the baseball fields,” said Khawaja.

Khawaja believes the city is unwilling to let his team play in McCarren because of “fear of the unknown” and thinks that games could be allowed on the track with minimal disruption.

“We have enough kids and equipment, but now we’re turning our attention to the field,” said Khawaja. “Unless PSAL changes its decision, or the Parks Department puts up fencing, it’s really out of our control.”

Updated 5:19 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

wily coyote from greenpoint says:
They are having problems because they are named after the evil automobile. Change the name to Bicycle H.S. and the league will make things work for them.
Aug. 4, 2010, 10:30 am
Ashaad Thornotn from bed stuy says:
i believe that the city should help these kids out. i mean they work hard, football is there passion and to have to go to another school and consider that as your home is not right. These went from 0-10 to 10-0 and lost the playoff by one point. and i was there at midwood when they played south bronx they fought hard and it was a very close and hard fought game. Automotive Highschool deserve they own home field.
Aug. 5, 2010, 12:57 pm
Candace from Greenpoint says:
As the music teacher at the school, I can say that it really is a sad thing that the city can't see the importance of allowing the AHS football players to play at the field they see out the windows of their classrooms every day. To me, it seems as if the city is sending a message that they don't deserve to play at McCarren Park as much as the hipsters deserve to do yoga there.
All the city would have to do is build a simple fence. Soccer teams already play there regularly. Why not football?
Aug. 5, 2010, 2:30 pm
D from bedstuy says:
bet if it wasent for "automotive" it would b allowed, wat does fencing have 2 do with it? theres fences around the park just not the field its fine just say u dont want " automotive " using the field, lmao.
Aug. 5, 2010, 4:21 pm
mike from greenpoint says:
thats crazy! travel to another school 4 ur "home " field? and especially grandst? shaking my head ! theres a beautiful field across the street from auto ! right there.. mccarren! let them usee the field. rawr!
Aug. 5, 2010, 4:22 pm
Dave from Clinton Hill says:
Seriously, enough with the hungover hipsters playing co-ed kickball and softball there, let these kids play!
Aug. 6, 2010, 3:52 pm
Laura Hofmann from Greenpoint says:
The City should be encouraging our youth to play sports, not discouraging them. If the City can tweak the rules to allow bands like "——ed Up", play in a children's playground, then they can tweak the rules to allow a football game to happen in McCarren Park.
Aug. 6, 2010, 8:21 pm
expatriot from Greenpoint says:
The number of times I have been hit or almost hit by a baseball/ softball/ soccer ball as I tried to walk the perimeter of the park (the "paved" path) are too numerous to recount.

I won't even get into the kick baller's and their entourage, which make me avoid McCarren altogether. They have no respect for anything but their frozen adolescent sense of entitlement and will run you down.
Aug. 6, 2010, 10:47 pm
Alain from East Orange.NJ says:
The city need to do something to have the AHS Football player play on the field at McCarren Park.They have represent the neighborhood in alot of different way they went for 0-10 t0 10-0 and lost the championship by 1 point....its not easy to be playing on the baseball field at all becuz yu basically yu play on rock..but at the same time they got good field right across that we could practice on and call it ou home field too...i mean we could bring crowd out to our game and make the resident watch a great game and enjoy them self too..
Aug. 12, 2010, 12:32 am
Nigel from Greenpoint says:
The city refuses to allow football to be played at McCarren Park, not even a youth football team, but allows soccer to be played there. To add insult to injury there is another park Bushwick Inlet Park 6 blocks away designed specifically for soccer. There is clearly a bias against AMERICAN FOOTBALL, and this is a travesty. The parks department should be ashamed of themselves.
Aug. 18, 2010, 8:51 pm
stop bashing parks from bburg says:
The caption on the picture is wrong - the hold up is not/never has been Parks who permits kids playing soccer on the same fields. Per the article, it is/was the Dept. of Ed.
Sept. 24, 2010, 5:20 pm

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