For almost 20 years, the Rockaway Ravens, an all volunteer nonprofit youth sports organization that offers cheerleading, soccer and football programs, have been part of the Far Rockaway community.
Without a single recreational football field on the peninsula, its football team had to shuffle between Far Rockaway High School and Beach Channel High School football fields for practice for years. Then, with the support of then-City Councilman and current state Senator James Sanders, the Ravens petitioned for a field.
And when Rockaway Parks, a $30 million investment in recreation areas in Far Rockaway, opened on Aug. 6, 2012, the team finally had a gridiron they could call home.
Located on Beach 32nd and a mere “Hail Mary” pass away from the Atlantic Ocean — with the boardwalk serving as a divider — the players got to practice and play against other teams on their “field of dreams.”
Only a few months later, on Oct. 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy hit New York City. The Category 1 hurricane battered the Rockaways, and a 10-foot storm surge flooded the peninsula, demolishing homes and leaving many residents without shelter.
Sandy’s wrath also destroyed the football field.
Dexter Archbold, president and founder of the Rockaway Ravens, said the ground was covered in about three to four feet of sand after the surge moved out.
“You couldn’t see the green top, you couldn’t see the benches — nothing. Everything was completely covered,” Archbold said.
Archbold said that the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) did a great job removing the sand from the field.
But the saltwater eroded the shock padding — a layer below the turf that provides safety during athletic activities — and turned the turf, which should feel like a shag carpet, into a matted, sandpaper-like flat rug sitting on concrete.
Archbold said from what he understands, there was a lot of back and forth between DPR and the builder, and that they went to court.
Almost nine years later, the field — the only public recreational football field on the Peninsula — is still in the same condition.
Looking at the field and the players practicing tackles and blocks, he said, “I don’t know what the outcome is. But this is what we have to play with until better can be done.”