Forget Little League — the most competitive kids’ sport in Williamsburg and Greenpoint is turf warfare.
Youth athletic leagues in Brooklyn’s most northerly nabes can’t score enough practice time because they are battling adult teams — and each other — over the area’s incredibly limited parkland, according to local coaches.
“There’s not enough fields to go around,” said Paul Wilson of youth football league the Greenpoint Spartans.
Parks Department policy is to give youth leagues priority for permits — which everyone has to re-apply for every season — followed by school leagues and returning permit-holders. But when Wilson crunched the numbers, he found grown-up groups were getting as much as 90 percent of field space across McCarren and Bushwick Inlet Parks during the summer months of 2014, and around 70 percent in the fall.
The borough’s parks honcho admits he puts returning permit-holders first in line when making the rosters regardless of age, but also insists he does so without stealing time from fledgling jocks.
“NYC Parks’ practice is to first accommodate returning users, and does not mandate us to take time away from one age group and give to another,” said commissioner Kevin Jeffrey. “No time was taken from any youth league to accommodate adults this season or last, or in general practice.”
But Wilson says that doesn’t mean his team is getting enough training time — the Spartans need to practice for two hours, twice a week to stay in fighting form for games during the upcoming spring season, he claims, but the city has only allotted them half a field once a week for that period.
The pint-sized players also got two practices a week last summer, instead of the four he asked for, and only one or two during the fall while they continued to press for three.
And other young leagues say they’re having the same problem — returning permit-holders have many of the prime practice spots locked down, and they can’t grow as their teams do.
“We’ve tried to work with the Parks Department, but they claim their hands are tied,” said Mike Arnot of the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Youth Soccer League, who says he is struggling to accommodate the nearly 1,000 future Beckhams in the league in the two practice spots they are allotted a week.
But one Greenpoint green-space guru says the issue isn’t so much young versus old, just that everyone is battling it out in an area that has some of the least amount of open space per resident in the city.
“Open space is so limited in our community, everyone is trying to get more out of less,” said Phil Caponegro, the chair of Community Board 1’s parks committee. “There are only so many fields and there are only so many time slots available.”
Officials promised to deliver more parkland to Williamsburg and Greenpoint when they rezoned the nabes for more high-rise housing a decade ago, but the influx of new buildings and residents have arrived much faster than the fields.
The department says it will begin adding turf to Greenpoint’s currently concrete Newtown Barge Park sometime this year, while locals will have to wait until next year to see the long-delayed Box Street Park begin its conversion into parkland.
Meanwhile, athletes are still dividing up Bushwick Inlet Park’s measly seven acres of field space while locals lobby the city to purchase enough land to create the 28 acres it promised there more than a decade ago.