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By Bill Martino and Bill Bialosky | We have been asked what compelled the Downtown leagues to get behind the Pier 40 Champions initiative given our limited use of the pier. The answer is really very simple; our leagues have sizeable waitlists and we need room to grow to protect the future of organized activities for our children. Pier 40 is the only nearby space for new fields.
Consider the data; according to a recent New York Times article, the nine-and-younger population across Battery Park City and Lower Manhattan has grown 129 percent over the past decade. There are upwards of 250 fifth graders in public schools in Tribeca and the Financial District, and approximately 450 in kindergarten. This math does not work since we cannot take in new five-year-olds if we won’t have space for them when they are eight. In just two years, we will be turning families away in alarming numbers and pitting friends and neighbors against one another in a race to secure coveted spots in the leagues.
This problem is analogous to the overcrowding at our local schools. Through the efforts of the School Overcrowding Task Force, under the supervision of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, our community has successfully secured more classrooms and seats over the past several years. We need similar focus and results at Pier 40, which is why our Downtown leagues joined Pier 40 Champions, an alliance of youth sports programs and schools advocating for new fields and actively engaged with key local elected officials to make this a core priority.
Pier 40 can help us if we can help save it. There’s plenty of space there to build new fields, and with the much-needed assistance of the city and state, we can have new fields in two years. The Hudson River Park Trust is trying hard to keep the park open and they came through in an inspirational way to get the fields repaired quickly after Hurricane Sandy. But they just don’t have the funds to do the critical repairs. That’s why Pier 40 Champions has made a big pitch for the city and state to act now to keep the pier open.
Just as we have grown our schools, we need to do the same for our parks so our children can grow strong, agile minds and bodies, and learn about teamwork while we parents volunteer, or simply watch with pride from the stands.
Bill Martino and Bill Bialosky are respectively presidents of the Downtown Little League and Downtown Soccer League, which both play primarily on the fields in Battery Park City.