downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 | Issue 25 | November 3 - 9, 2006

Editorial

Keep more of the B.P.C. ballfields open

This spring Downtown Little Leaguers may play on smaller fields with their cheering parents far away behind the fences on Murray, Warren and West Sts.

While the Downtown Little and Soccer Leagues continue to grow with the booming Lower Manhattan population, the Battery Park City Authority is proposing to reduce field space and playing time at the Battery Park ballfields. Under the plan being developed by the B.P.C.A., some of the fields and all of the spectator area will be closed while Milstein Properties begins building two adjacent residential towers.

This is not yet a fait accompli and the B.P.C.A. needs to change this plan by requiring Milstein to provide protective measures to keep all of the fields open during construction. If that is not feasible, the authority should release any study showing that it is not possible or too expensive and allow the public and independent experts to review the analysis.

Let’s remember how Milstein got the inside track to develop the last two lucrative sites in Battery Park City. The firm was so obstinate in its negotiations with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation over selling a lot across from the World Trade Center site that the L.M.D.C. made noises about taking the drastic measure of eminent domain to take over the property. The B.P.C.A. broke the logjam by offering Milstein first negotiating rights to the city-owned ballfield sites, enabling W.T.C. redevelopment plans to proceed.

This is not the first time Milstein has frustrated Downtowners and prompted eminent domain talk. It has spent over a decade ignoring the fact that the Seaport lot it bought is in a landmark district; the firm has proposed a series of out-of-scale designs for 250 Water St. There was some discussion of a forced takeover before the city found the Beekman St. site for a much-needed school.

The past does not necessarily predict the future, though, and we encourage Milstein to meet directly with community leaders to discuss what they are willing to do to lessen, if not eliminate the planned disruption to the field.

In addition to the construction fence this spring, the authority plans to use a movable barrier in the spring of 2008 that will cut off even more of the field, particularly on windy days. Safety is of course the most important thing, but the onus should be on Milstein and the authority to prevent the need to close off more area.

It is clear to us that the authority is sincere in its desire to accommodate the needs of the community and the leagues. But it needs to make changes to the current plan.

The pressing need for more Downtown playing space to keep up with burgeoning sports participation will not be solved regardless of how this is resolved. Connie Fishman, president of the Hudson River Park Trust, told us she would consider allowing T-ball and some soccer games on a planned turf lawn on Pier 25 if Community Board 1 makes the request. C.B. 1 should do this promptly. The Trust’s batting cages reduce the demand for field practice time, and they should remain in Tribeca. The Trust should talk with the league about setting more of them to Little League-speed pitches. The Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation opened the island to the Little League last season and it should expand access on Sundays, giving the public another day to visit this treasure and players a chance to swing for the water.

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