By Greg Hanlon
The $40 million renovation of Calvert Vaux Park – better known to neighborhood residents as Dreier-Offerman Park – is in full swing, with two synthetic-turf soccer fields expected to be finished this summer. These two soccer fields will be joined by four more by the time the 74-acre park, which runs from Bay 44th to 49th street, and is also bounded by Shore Parkway, Coney Island Creek and Gravesend Bay, is completed by the end of 2011. In addition, the renovated park will boast three new baseball fields, a large central lawn, an amphitheater for performances, and numerous picnic areas when finished. To accentuate its location on Gravesend Bay, as well as the area’s rich concentration of wildlife, the park will feature six new kayak launches, a bike path and various nature trails. Another feature is the indoor nature center that will have interactive nature exhibits. “The appeal is to combine recreational features with natural preserves,” said Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson. The synthetic fields are part of a citywide trend to replacing grass fields with an artificial surface. “We can use them year round, whereas grass fields become muddy, and we have to close them four to five months a year to re-seed them,” said Abramson. “They require fewer natural resources, we don’t’ have to use things like chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and they cost less to maintain.” The refurbishment of Dreier-Offerman is part of Mayor Bloomberg’s broader PlaNYC 2030. Among other sustainability measures, the plan calls for turning eight large, underdeveloped parks across the city into attractive regional destinations. A comprehensive renovation of McCarren Pool is the other major improvement to a Brooklyn park outlined in PlaNYC 2030 Come 2011, Calvert Vaux Park will certainly have a new appearance, but will it have a new name? Or, more aptly, will its new name stick? In 1998, then-Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern renamed the park Calvert Vaux Park. Stern, a parks historian, wanted to honor the 1800s architect and landscape designer best remembered for partnering with the more famous Frederick Law Olmsted on the design for both Central and Prospect Park. A Bensonhurst resident, Vaux died under mysterious circumstances in 1895. His body was found washed ashore in Gravesend Bay at the foot of Bay 17th Street. Before 1998, the park took its name from the Dreier-Offerman home for unwed mothers, which closed in 1933 and donated its relatively small parcel of property to the Parks Department. In 1962, the Parks Department acquired a 72-acre parcel of land that comprises much of the current park. But after ten years, the park’s new name hasn’t exactly caught on. But Parks Department officials see the renovation as an opportunity to make the name stick. “After the announcement that it was going to be renovated, we started exclusively calling it Calvert Vaux,” said Abramson. “It’s a new name for a new beginning.” Whatever it is called, neighborhood residents are excited about their new park. “I guess both names are acceptable and both names will be used, depending on who you ask,” said State Senator Marty Golden. “The important thing is that this park is undergoing an extensive renovation and modernization,” he said. Before the renovation, the park had five soccer fields and three baseball fields. But two of the baseball fields had little league dimensions; in the renovated park, they will be full-sized fields also capable of accommodating little league games. Chuck Reichenthal, District Manager of Community Board 13, hopes that the increased field space will allow for more use. “There will be additional fields, so we hope more people will use them,” he said. He did not have any specifics as to which leagues or recreation groups would have increased access, however. “It’s all still in the future. There’s a lot of planning to be done,” he said.