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No place to call home for College Point’s First Sport Club

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Tony Cusenza just needs to look out the front door of his home to see what was and what may never be again for the First Sport Club of College Point.

When the president of the organization looks out onto 128th street and turns to his left, he sees the abandoned College Point Sports Complex, padlocked since 1997.

It’s the former home of the First Sport Club of College Point, which celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. Without a home base, the club has floundered in recent years and its membership is down to 100, a loss of 250 players since the fields were closed by the city.

“The way we’re going, I wouldn’t say there’s no future. However, a lot of it has to do with what’s going on with the fields and it’s out of our control,” Cusenza said. “That’s the major problem. It’s an unfortunate thing, but for us to exist we need to have a field.”

As a result, one of the oldest athletic clubs in New York State has been turned into a traveling band of nomads.

The three senior teams play some of their games at Little Bay Park under the Throgs Neck Bridge, while the three remaining junior teams play their Long Island Junior Soccer League home games away at the Soccer Park in Plainview, L.I.

Of the club’s three senior teams, which are comprised of players 18-and-older, two — the Flames and the Enforcers — are the soccer teams of the FDNY and NYPD, respectively.

“Tony Avella is very active; he’s been helpful in trying to push this project forward,” Cusenza said of the city councilman, who is the former president of the College Point Sports Association. “But if City Hall doesn’t have the money, Mayor Bloomberg isn’t going to allocate another $30 million. It is sad that we still have to be at the mercy of other people.”

From October 1996 to October 1997, Enviro-Fill, a Flushing-based construction company, dumped 70 cubic yards of solid waste, including rusty pipes, wallboard, concrete, glass, metal and wire on the property.

On Halloween 1997, the city ordered work to be stopped on the fields when a Department of Sanitation inspector examined the debis.

The fields were left unusable and the city had to spend more than $10 million to clean it up.

Five men, including Whitestone contractor Benjamin Rastelli, Jr., pleaded guilty to illegally dumping the debris.

It was at the fields where Cusenza kept up the tradition of the club’s summer program. For six weeks in July and August, the College Point club offered children of all ages the chance to get off the street and play soccer for a few hours.

According to Cusenza, Trophy Day drew the largest crowds when each child enrolled received a trophy as well as a uniform for the nominal enrollment fee. Unfortunately, the summer program ended when the fields were shuttered.

“We provided a good service for the community and we were able to draw kids from Brooklyn, College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, Douglaston, Astoria and Ridgewood. It was not just a neighborhood thing,” said Cusenza, who emigrated from Sicily in 1966. “It was not a money maker for the club, but it was a way to bring up the next generation.”

The First Sport Club of College Point — so named because the German immigrants who founded it believed soccer was the only sport around — originated as a result of a meeting between founder Oskar Keller and a group of some 30 other immigrants at College Point’s Hans Leys Bar and Grill on Oct. 7, 1927.

The club, featuring two newly formed teams, took to the field to play powerhouse Wiener S.C. that weekend, losing by just one goal.

The First Sport Club of College Point then joined the famed German-American Soccer League. In 1930-31, College Point made the championship match in the ‘A’ division, but fell to New Brunswick, 5-4.

A short time later, the junior movement kicked off and College Point added two junior teams and two juvenile teams.

Following World War II, the club’s membership began to change from exclusively German immigrants to include Italian and Irish-born players.

Although several nationalities are represented in today’s incarnation of the club, the First Sport Club of College Point is a small, dwindling tight-knit group. The organization may be without a home field, but it still has access to its clubhouse on 14th Avenue to get together and reminisce.

“I’ve been there 20 years. John Schneider, the secretary, has been there close to 50 years, having played as a kid,” Cusenza said. “We got involved and it’s not just a game now, it’s socializing.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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