After a rainstorm on Thursday night, the new state-of-the art sports complex at William Cullen Bryant High School in Long Island City was put to the test for its grand opening the following morning.
“Today, it’s a dry field. And that’s because there’s a lot of gravel under here. We designed it to absorb water, so that’s something to think about. We can retrofit our city that way,” said Carter Strickland, state director of the Trust for Public Land, in his address to the student body.
Joined by the borough president’s office and the representatives from the trust, the high school unveiled the large new $3 million field that includes regulation soccer and softball fields.
The funding for the deal was provided by Borough President Melinda Katz and facilitated by the Trust for Public Land, an organization which provides funding to create parks and protect land. It was the largest project that the organization has worked on to date in terms of size and expense.
“Queens has some of the most some of the most overcrowded high schools, and the borough president is always advocating for new schools and new extensions, so to be able to fund a field for a school that has over 2,000 students. It’s going to help them in their education as well,” said Monica Gutierrez, the education director for Katz, who was absent from event, reportedly tending to a sick child.
The plush turf field, which will be open to the public on the weekends, also includes a track straightaway, batting cages, a new scoreboard and a fitness equipment room. As soon as the ribbon was cut, the assembled students ran on the field and began taking selfies in front the new facilities.
“I just want to stay in here,” said senior softball player Sophia Topalis while trying out the new batting cages.
The field was built as the result of advocacy on the part of the students, parents and school representatives, who took their campaign for the new field the borough president’s parent advisory board meetings.
“The field was in disrepair. Kids were falling and they were having accidents,” said Gutierrez.
In addition to the fields, the borough president’s office recently allocated the funding for brand-new lockers and new technology at the Astoria high school.
The Trust for Public Land takes on a lot of projects that involve building playgrounds and athletic fields for public school in the city, but the organization also endeavors to build other types of parks.
Strickland said that a major project for them is Queensway, a 3 1/2-mile stretch of the former Rockaway Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road that has been abandoned for 60 years. The organization wants to reopen it as a bike and pedestrian walkway that would stretch over seven subway lines.
In his speech to the students, Strickland said that he remembers when he played football in high school, “it was very hard for us to play against some of the schools with nicer facilities. You’re going to intimidate some people out there. This is great. And more important you’re going to have pride in what you do.”