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New era dawning for Dust Bowl

Under foot, the loose sand shifted.

As a group of dignitaries picked up scoops of earth with waiting shovels, they marked what cannot help but be perceived as the dawning of a new day for the ignominiously named “Dust Bowl,” the baseball field at Eighth Avenue and 65th Street, which generations of park-goers have known as the area where grass simply would not grow.

The field will need a new name once its $2.8 million renovation -- complete with state-of-the-art artificial turf-- is finished, a year from now, noted Julius Spiegel, the Brooklyn Parks Commissioner.

The artificial turf will solve the field’s perennial problem, remarked City Councilmember Vincent Gentile. “Every time they tried to put grass on the field, it never stayed because the use of the field was so great,” he recalled. “Every time they put grass down, it would get torn up. That shows,” he stressed, “how important the field is to so many leagues.” Gentile allocated $2.6 million toward the field’s renovation, and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz allocated the remainder.

Besides the new artificial turf -- “The best synthetic turf seen anywhere in the city of New York,” Gentile averred -- the field renovation will also include new backstops, new portable pitcher’s mounds and soccer goals, and bleachers, he noted.

One of the benefits of the artificial turf, Spiegel said, is the fact that, “If it rains, you can play right away.”

Not included in the funding for the Dust Bowl, but being built a short distance away so it can be accessible to those who come to Leif Ericson Park to play and relax, is a new $800,000 comfort station, with the funding provided by the Brooklyn borough president.

“The bottom line,” stressed Markowitz, “is that this is a great place for families to assemble.” For youngsters, he added, it provides a golden opportunity to exercise regularly. “If you exercise at your age,” he told youngsters assembled to watch the ground breaking, “You probably won’t look like me at my age, and you’ll be healthier.”

The renovation of the Dust Bowl means that one more jewel in the neighborhood’s crown will be polished, added Josephine Beckmann, the district manager of Community Board 10.

“While I’ve always said we have the most beautiful parks in this district, this park in particularly has been sorely in need of restoration,” she told the assembled group. “I’m most happy that our future kids in the community will be able to plan here on a green field, and enjoy this space.”

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