First Steps Taken to Restore Damaged BPC Ball Fields

A forklift carries one of many rolls of artificial turf removed from the BPC ball fields late last month. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

They’ve rolled up the green carpet on the Battery Park City ball fields.

The flood-ruined artificial turf, along with a porous layer of padding beneath it, were taken up late last month, giving Down­town Little League families their first visible sign of progress towards making the fields whole again—and the baseball season a reality.

It’s only a preliminary step toward the reconstruction of the fields, but one meant to shorten the rebuilding time once a contractor is selected and work can begin.

The Battery Park City Authority set Feb. 4 as the deadline for contractors’ responses to its request for proposals.

Buoyed by word earlier in the month that the Authority was moving ahead with this first phase of work, Downtown Little League Pres­ident Bill Martino told the concerned parents of some 1,100 players, “We anticipate, and will now begin to plan for, a full season of baseball and softball for our children!”

The “new and ex­pedited” repair schedule of the hurricane-damaged fields was the result of “weeks of discussions” led by the office of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, he said.

Martino had earlier said that the fields must be ready by May 1 in order to rescue even part of the season.

Battery Park City Authority officials have been more cautious about predicting a completion time for the fields. “The timeline for replacement continues to have some uncertainty around it,” Authority Chairman Dennis Mehiel said at a Jan. 29 board meeting.

“When will we have that timeline?” he added. “You know, maybe in the next week or 10 days, something like that.”

Mehiel ac­knowl­edged the technical advice that is being offered to the Au­thority by the New York Mets. The help came as the re­sult of a call from Silver to Mets owner Jeff Wil­pon.

“They have come down here, they have met with us, and are going to continue to be available to find the most ex­peditious possible process to restore those fields,” Mehiel said.

The Coney Island field of the Mets’ minor league team, the Cy­­clones, was also flooded during Sandy, though both the Mets’ Citi Field and the Cy­clones’ MCU Park are natural grass.

The Authority’s decision to begin the preliminary work came after weeks of escalating frustration from league and elected officials and Community Board 1 over what they saw as foot-dragging over replacement of the $3 million fields.

In early December the Authority had suggested that the Downtown Little League look for alternate fields, to which Martino had responded, “There are no other fields.”

“Let’s be clear: it is absolutely vital that the BPCA figures out how to get work started on the fields by the beginning of next month—period,” State Sen. Daniel Squadron said on Jan. 11.

“It is simply not acceptable to tell the children of Battery Park City and Lower Manhattan that there will be no season this year,” Silver told Mehiel in a Jan. 7 letter.

Now optimism prevails.

The Authority’s request for proposals, drawn up before the earlier work was ordered, calls for the fields to be ready by May 24. But it encourages contractors to propose schedules that would finish the construction earlier.