Fort Hamilton Athletic Field
Fort Hamilton Athletic Field
During the 19th century, this land was the site of the Crescent Athletic Club; but even after being relayed from one owner to another, over the course of more than a century, it continues on its original track as a major site for sporting events in Bay Ridge.
The field, like the school it serves, takes its name from nearby Fort Hamilton, one of the oldest continuously garrisoned federal military posts in the United States. The fort honors Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), the distinguished colonial statesman and first Secretary of the Treasury. Fort Hamilton was built at the Brooklyn shore of the narrows between 1825 and 1831. During the Civil War (1861-1865), it served as a training ground for volunteer New York State regiments.
After the war, the same highland and seaside vistas that made Bay Ridge the perfect location for a fort proved equally well suited to serve as a summer retreat area for New York’s wealthy citizens. High society settlers built mansions atop the bluffs overlooking the bay. Here, at the center of this community stood the Crescent Athletic Club, which provided its members a place to exercise and participate in a range of sports.
By the 1920s, Bay Ridge had transformed from a summer resort into a neighborhood of middle class workers who could travel by subway into Manhattan every day. The athletic club closed and the Bowery Savings Bank took possession of the land. The City of New York first made plans to acquire this land for school purposes in March 1938, and three months later, bought the property for $650,000. The Board of Education proposed the construction of a high school to occupy a large portion of the land, and agreed to divide the remaining property into an athletic field and the adjacent community playground.
With Fort Hamilton High School already built, the playground (named for Russell Pedersen in 1969) opened in the summer of 1941, while relief workers carried on the construction of the athletic field. Upon its completion, Parks agreed that the Board of Education would control the field completely during the school year and Parks would use it only during the summer. Since that time, renegotiations have resulted in greater access for the general public.
Located between Colonial Road and Shore Road from 83rd to 85th Streets, Fort Hamilton Ballfields received $1.85 million from Council Member Martin J. Golden in 2001 for a complete reconstruction. The facility features a new synthetic rubber track inside of which lies an artificial turf field with regulation markings for football, soccer, and two baseball diamonds. With baseball backstops in the far corners and soccer goals that roll in to the football end zones, the field can be quickly adapted for three different sports. On the south side of the track is a new set of bleachers, and a brand new scoreboard stands on the west end of the field.
On the north side of the property, beyond the extremity of the track and slightly below grade, remain three of the original 1938 tennis courts, as well as two basketball courts. And in the corner of the field closest to the school building stands a flagpole with a yardarm displaying the Parks flag, the City flag, and at its pinnacle the Stars and Stripes of the United States.