Little League looks out for the season

The Battery Park City ball fields as they looked Tuesday. The Battery Park City Authority has announced that the artificial turf will have to be entirely replaced because of damage from Superstorm Sandy.  Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

The Battery Park City ball fields as they looked Tuesday. The Battery Park City Authority has announced that the artificial turf will have to be entirely replaced because of damage from Superstorm Sandy. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

BY JOSH ROGERS  |  Battery Park City Authority officials are not calling Sandy a “perfect storm,” but they do say it was a once-in-a-century type event that could sideline the neighborhood ballfields for six months or longer.

Mathew Monahan, the authority’s spokesperson, said the fields were designed to withstand all but a 100-year storm, which “came 99 years sooner than we anticipated.”

In a subsequent prepared statement, he said the damaged field would be rebuilt to the “original specifications.” There are no plans to make any design changes with the benefit of hindsight.

Monahan, in an email and phone interview, called it “bewildering” that the Downtown Little League is registering players for the upcoming season knowing that the fields may not be ready.

Bill Martino, president of the league, did not take kindly to Monahan’s characterization.

“It would be bewildering and stupid to tell 1,000 families looking forward to having a season that there’s no chance,” he said.

He said slightly more players have signed up for this season, 973, as at the same point last year, and no one yet has asked for a refund.

“So far there’s a level of trust we’ll have a season,” although he does not yet know how if the fields are not ready.

Martino plans to meet soon with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose district includes B.P.C.

Silver fired off a letter to the authority last Friday saying “it is simply not acceptable to tell the children of Battery Park City and Lower Manhattan that there will be no season this year. I urge you to come up with a plan that will have our Little Leaguers on the field by Opening Day.”

With control of one of five votes on the Public Authorities Control Board, the speaker has great influence over the B.P.C.A.,  although the local agency has been saying it is trying to open the field as soon as possible.

The turf fields were built at the end of 2011 at a cost of $4.1 million, according to Monahan. He was not sure if a different design could have prevented the long closure.

The authority has not made its consultants available for interviews, nor has it released any of their reports.

The authority refused to even release the name of one of its consultants, BBS Architects, until Downtown Express published an article two weeks ago pointing this out.

Some of the information it has released has not been accurate.

Last week, Monahan acknowledged that it was only two consultants who assessed the field damage — BBS and the field’s designer, Stantec Consulting. The authority posted a message on its web site last month indicating at least three consultants had been hired.

The authority had previously pointed to the sewer water that was part of the flooding, and cited public health concerns about reopening the fields too quickly, but Monahan said it is simply storm damage that is causing the delay.

The authority is planning to soon release a request for proposals to remove the turf field and subsurface padding in order to replace it.

It won’t have a timeline for reopening until it has a better idea of the extent of the damage.

The field is on one of the neighborhood’s lowest points, and after the storm, it was covered with about three feet of water, much of it from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, now named for Hugh Carey.  The field and padding underneath were completely dislodged and shifted a few inches from their locations, according to the authority.

The Little League’s Martino said he’s been frustrated by the lack of communication beyond a message that amounts to:  “It don’t look good Bill.”

He noted that the Hudson River Park Trust worked together with local youth groups to quickly reopen larger fields just to the north.

“Why is it different than the turf fields on Pier 40?” he asked.

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