Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Brooklyn's "Dust Bowl" Field Naming Controversy

Unwilling to maintain and properly secure the two natural turf baseball fields in Lief Ericson Park in Bay Ridge, the City recently dumped $ 2.8 million dollars into an artificial turf field. When he was Park's Commissioner Henry Stern officially named the field "Dust Bowl," a sad symbol of the City's neglect. 


So what if it harkens to an environmental catastrophe in American history — if Bay Ridge wants its Dust Bowl, it will get it, according to organizers of a contest to rename a once-gritty section of a popular area park, according to The Brooklyn Paper.

“If our neighborhood chooses to [make official] a long-standing nickname, we are totally and completely supportive of that,” said Dena Libner, a spokeswoman for Councilman Vince Gentile, who, along with the Parks Department, organized a contest to rename a section of Leif Ericson Park, at Eighth Avenue and 65th Street.

The Dust Bowl, so named for its inability to grow grass, was the recipient of a $2.8-million renovation, and is now covered with a verdant carpet of synthetic turf, prompting the contest.

So does the “Dust Bowl” name kick sand in the face of history? Historians think so.

“There’s probably a more innocent name to call a piece of ground that’s dusty,” said Bob Brigman, the coordinator of the historical markers program for the Texas Historical Commission.

“Several generations removed from the event, the emotion and all the physical impact has been forgotten,” he said. “It’s like calling a boat that sinks today ‘Titanic-like’ — and they lost only three people. It’s like an echo or ripple from the original event.”

Andrew Needham, an environmental historian at New York University, agrees that naming a park “The Dust Bowl” at least reveals a lack of knowledge of the grim history of the event.

“People don’t really understand the scope of the Dust Bowl,” he said. “This is something that had people in the East Coast cleaning off dirt from the Great Plains on their window sills in Boston and New York. But it’s fallen out of people’s minds.

 Today, they associate it mainly with the Joad family of ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ or maybe ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’ ”

He said that because the Dust Bowl has fallen out of people’s minds as an environmental disaster, the name is not offensive as, for example, naming a regulary flooded wetland, Katrina Park.

Indeed, Needham said he was far more surprised that the Parks Department would want to associate the park with the agency’s failure to properly maintain it. But that’s what former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern intended all along.

Read More:

Bay Ridge’s ‘Dust Bowl’ park — insensitive to America’s great national tragedy?
The Brooklyn Paper - September 7, 2010 - By Gary Buiso 

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