Kids Will Have 'Full Season' of Play, Says Little League President

This spring, parents will again be watching their children play ball on the Battery Park City ball fields,  says Downtown Little League President Bill Martino. File photo by Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib


That's the call late Friday by Downtown Little President Bill Martino, who is informing parents of some 1,100 children that there will be a full season of play on rebuilt Battery Park City ball fields.

In his announcement to parents, Martino said that a "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. "We anticipate, and will now begin to plan for, a full season of baseball and softball for our children!" he wrote.

Although local elected officials and the Battery Park City Authority had announced progress in getting the fields replaced sooner than expected, it remained uncertain when the work would be completed and how much, if any, of the season could be saved.

Earlier in the day, Authority chairman Dennis Mehiel said in a statement that the Authority has a plan to move the project along faster. "We will initiate both the removal of the turf surface and inspection and assessment of the drainage system before the contract work starts as a way to compress the timeline of the overall project," he said.

The Authority did not mention the effect of that plan on the Little League season, which was expected to start in early April. Before the Authority had settled on the plan, it had issued a request for proposals [RFP] to prospective contractors, giving May 24 as the deadline for completing the work. In an interview Friday afternoon, Authority spokesman Matt Monahan declined to say that the fields would be ready sooner than that date, only that the Authority was hopeful.

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

The announcement Friday evening came as a surprise, following a statement just a few hours earlier by Silver in which he said that through his request to New York Mets owner Jeff Wilpon, field consultants for the club would be brought in to help identify ways to speed up the replacement of the fields. Though sounding a note of optimism, he did not say that the season had been saved.

"Jeff Wilpon and the ownership of the New York Mets have graciously offered to provide valuable technical advice to help move this process forward as quickly as possible," Silver said. The Mets consultants inspected the ball fields earlier this week.

The Coney Island field of the Mets minor league team, the Cyclones, was also flooded during the storm, although both the Mets CitiField and the Cyclones MCU Park are natural-grass fields.

The Authority issued a request for proposals for the ball fields replacement earlier this week. Although the document calls for the fields to be completed by May 24, it also encourages contractors to propose work schedules that would finish the fields earlier. The deadline for responses to the RFP is Feb. 4.

Community Board 1's Battery Park City Committee passed a resolution earlier this week calling on the Authority to convene an emergency board meeting to award the RFP as soon as responses are in.