Right Field

NYC’s Public School System at Its Finest

Lehman High School in the Bronx plays all its football games as away games. Not because the school doesn’t have a field — it does — but the field is only 80 yards long, rather than the 100-yard length (120, if you count the endzones) of every other football field in America.

Solution: NYC has arranged for $5 million in funding to upgrade the facilities at Lehman H.S. — including a brand new 80-yard-long football field!

From today’s Times:

For decades it has been an inconvenience bordering on embarrassment. Herbert H. Lehman High School, with an enrollment of more than 4,000 students in the Bronx, has never played a home football game simply because its field, at 80 yards, is too short for regulation contests.

The result, over the years, has been extra travel for student-athletes — the team plays all of its games on the fields of other schools — and an understandable difficulty in building school spirit and support.

An end to the problem seemed to be at hand several years ago when the New York City Department of Education granted the financing for renovations of athletic facilities at a number of high schools, including what would become nearly $5 million to overhaul Lehman’s multipurpose athletic complex.

When the work is done — the renovations began in earnest last fall and are set to be finished this September — there will be new bleachers for fans, lights for night games, a new artificial turf field and the school’s first new softball diamond.

But there is a hitch: the refurbished multipurpose field will remain 80 yards long, 20 yards shy of full size. And so, 38 years after Lehman first began its football program, there will still be no such thing as a home game. Same for the soccer and lacrosse teams.

Officials with the city agency in charge of the renovation insist they have an explanation: to expand the field to regulation length, they would have had to buy land adjacent to the school property, land that was apparently owned by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

A spokeswoman for the Corps said she had little idea what the city was talking about. The Corps owns no land near the high school, she said. The Corps had sent a letter to school construction officials in November telling them as much.

Meanwhile, the football coaches, players and parents at Lehman are furious, and have been working with lawyers in a last-ditch effort to have the city alter the renovation plans, with the possibility that they will file a lawsuit in the next week.

So, so stupid.

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