The biomedical waste dump atop McCarren Park has been excavated and removed — hopefully by guys in hazmat suits. In March, the city Parks Department tore the entire piss-and-beer-coated turf from the ground and dumped several metric tons of chopped-up rubber tires from the field onto some other God forsaken plot.
The soccer field will remain closed until next March, a depressing development for thousands of pickup and semi-pro soccer players who live in Williamsburg and Greenpoint or travel by G or L to the Lorimer St./Metropolitan Ave. station.
Rest In Peace, Turf. Though you may be gone, a piece of you will remain with us always.
Literally. The turf was so overstuffed with little rubber pellets that vacuuming became part of my post-game routine. Every time I got home and took my cleats and socks off, I scattered the bits across the floor. I haven’t played there for months, but I still find McCarren pellets wedged into cracks in my floorboards, tumbling out of the pockets of my backpack or protruding from beneath the insole of my cleats Princess and the Pea-style.
In addition to soccer, McCarren was party central. And as such, people peed and puked on the turf. They pooped, too. So did their dogs. Sharp things sunk into the deep turf and then emerged just as someone was diving into a burpee.
Yes, the field was often gross, but, compared to most other parks around the city, McCarren featured a FIFA 5-Star FIFA pitch.
There are a lot of dangerous, deteriorating and disgusting fields out there.
The McCarren Park closure got me thinking — What is the worst field in the city?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been asking fellow soccer players around the city for their perspective. Here are the contenders:
1. Riverbank State Park
McCarren’s abundance of rubber would be a blessing at other parks, including Riverbank State Park above the Hudson River next to Harlem and Columbus Park in Chinatown.
“Riverbank State Park is basically a carpet laid on top of cement,” one teammate told me recently in our team’s text thread.
Another agreed: “I lost so many skin cells to Riverbank.”
2. Columbus Park
Skin cells? No big deal compared to what my teammate Brad saw at Columbus Park.
“Carpet on top of concrete,” he said. “I witnessed someone blow out their knee making a pivot because the carpet moved under them.”
Several other people at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5 — the gold standard for city soccer fields — also named Columbus Park the city’s worst for its poor conditions and dangerous sideline placement.
“That one is just so shitty,” said Rafa, an advertiser in Dumbo. “It’s not taken care of and then there’s so little space. So if you’re running to the ball and you can’t stop, you just slide right over the concrete.”
3. Asphalt Green
Almost everyone I talked to has seen or experienced an injury they attribute to crappy field conditions at parks in New York city.
The turf at Asphalt Green on the Upper East Side is one of the culprits. Pete, my team’s goalkeeper, said Asphalt Green tore his shoulder.
“I dove for a ball and the grass wouldn’t let my shoulder slide,” Pete said. “So my momentum continued and my shoulder stayed under me.”
4. Amsterdam Arena
The Upper West Side has its own dangerous field: Amsterdam Arena between 101st and 102nd Street. Vincent, a digital marketer from Clinton Hill, blamed the pre-lined turf for a series of serious ankle injuries.
“They didn’t want to keep repainting lines so they bought turf that came with lines, but a storm would come by and rip the turf, especially along the goallines,” Vincent said. “I’ve twisted my ankle three times there. The last time was the worst. I had to wear an air cast for a month.”
5. Con Edison Field
Poor conditions even plague private fields with major corporate donors. An entire team condemned Con Edison Field on the East River near 15th Street.
“At Con Edison Field, there’s all rocks, glass and high grass on one end,” said Daniel, a Hoboken resident who plays soccer around the area. “It’s a baseball field but it’s not for baseball.”
6. McCarren — mostly because of all the urine
As noted, McCarren was just plain dirty.
“I saw people pissing there,” said Mpande, the NY Men’s Soccer organizer profiled here last month. “So many people drink beer there so of course they’re peeing too.”
7. Grover Cleveland Park in Ridgewood
The caged field at Grover Cleveland Park on Stanhope Street in Ridgewood attracts a lot of players — and you can tell by the turf. A huge chunk of green rug has been almost entirely churned up and ground down. There is no rubber insulation. It’s just threadbare carpet atop asphalt.
Your bloody knees will remind you.
Meanwhile, the Grover Cleveland High School Field a block away remains immaculate behind a locked gate.
8. But anything is better than the old field conditions, explained one lifelong Brooklyn resident
Andre, a lifelong Park Slope resident, provided a history lesson on field conditions. Even some of the city’s most popular soccer spots were, until recently, rocky hellholes, he said.
For example, the Bay Ridge homefield of Gottschee BW was just a “pile of dirt” unbefitting such a “great team.” And the Ft. Greene “Dust Bowl” really was a post-apocalyptic sand trap (“You’d slide and get rocks and glass and shit in your legs.”)
Even the Parade Grounds at the southern base of Prospect Park were “really shitty” until they fixed the field and introduced turf..
9. Any turf field — including Metropolitan Oval
To Rafal Wlazlo, the owner of the Referee Store in Ridgewood — who I profiled here last month — any park with fake turf is bad because the materials increases injury risk.
“The injuries I’ve seen on the fake turf fields are much worse than anything I’ve seen on grass,” the former professional referee said. “It’s not necessarily the amount of injuries on artificial fields, it’s the extent of those injuries.
The worst he ever saw in his career happened in a game at Met Oval in Maspeth and, Trigger Warning, it’s gruesome:
“A guy makes slide tackle with regular plastic cleats — normal, not metal, soft ground cleats — and all I hear is a scream,” Wlazlo explained.” He doesn’t catch the opponent at all. The little cleats get stuck in the turf because it not grass, it’s carpet and his body keeps going.”
“If you can imagine, his foot did a complete 180 — not 90, not 120; 180 — and your ankle is piercing the skin with all the bones going in the wrong direction and the foot hanging by a thread.”
“That thing was hanging on a little string an the rest was shredded.”
So what happened to the guy?
“We covered him with jerseys so he wouldn’t see [his ankle]. He was in shock and didn’t feel the pain. Two years later, I ran into him and he told me he got six titanium pins and a total reconstruction of the ankle — but he was still playing. It was a miracle.”
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