Temporary Closure Shifts Leagues to Miller Field from Great Kills
03/04/09Today the National Park Service announced that the ball fields at Great Kills Park will not be reopened for league play this spring due to the discovery of radium-contaminated soil near one of the ball fields. This closure will affect several baseball, softball and soccer leagues that have used the Great Kills Park fields for many years.
In January a contractor working under the direction of the US Army Corps of Engineers was removing radium contaminated soil that had previously been identified. During this process, additional areas of contamination were discovered, sites that had gone undetected during previous radiological surveys conducted by outside experts.
The areas that hold contaminated soil have been small and buried at least 12 inches below the surface; they are thought to pose no immediate danger. However, Gateway officials have decided to err on the side of caution and temporarily close areas of Great Kills Park that were built on landfill and might contain contaminated soil. The rest of Great Kills Park remains open for all other visitor activities.
At a meeting and teleconference held this afternoon, Gateway’s Staten Island Superintendent Jeanette Parker informed the affected Staten Island sports leagues of the park’s decision to close the fields. Parker explained that although officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services believe that there is a very low risk of significant exposure, park officials have decided to close the fields until a second radiological survey can be conducted and the issue is better understood.
To accommodate the needs of the leagues, some of the games will be shifted to Gateway’s Miller Field, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is working to provide fields for teams that cannot be accommodated at Miller Field.
• Great Kills Park was built by the New York City Department of Parks under the direction of Commissioner Robert Moses. Primary work was done between 1934 –1951. In a letter written in 1949 by Moses to New York City Mayor William O’Dwyer, he noted that $5 million in cost savings were achieved by using “Sanitation controlled fill” to expand usable park land. It is now thought that some of the fill probably contained materials that were used in medical radiation therapy.
• The park was transferred to the NPS in 1972 as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.