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Avella rallies with teams to reopen CP ballfields

Nearly seven years after the debris-ridden College Point ballfields were padlocked, the displaced sports teams that were forced off the fields were set to join civic leaders at a rally to press for their reopening.

“The pyramids were built faster than this,” said Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who is co-sponsoring the April 3 rally with the College Point Sports Association, business and community groups. “What’s the holdup and why are they not communicating with us?”

The ballfields were closed in October 1997 after illegal construction waste was discovered on the grounds used for baseball, football and soccer. The fields remain closed today, nearly seven years after 1,300 children lost a place to play sports.

City Department of Design and Construction spokesman Matthew Monahan, whose agency is currently in charge of building the fields, said it was making “steady ongoing progress” and was on target to finish the fields in the spring as projected.

“We’re the last agent. after a long and sorry history, bringing these fields to completion,” said Monahan.

Avella was head of the sports association in 1995 when Enviro-Fill, a Flushing company, was hired to regrade and renovate the fields for free in exchange for being able to dump clean fill on the 22-acre site.

But two Enviro-Fill officials and three owners of demolition companies were later convicted and sentenced for dumping illegal construction waste on the fields in a more lucrative scheme.

Since the ballfields were closed, responsibility for testing the land, cleaning up and renovating the fields has been passed between several city agencies and contractors.

The city rehired a previous contractor on the project, Volmar Construction, earlier this year after firing another company for what it said was shoddy work and missed deadlines.

Volmar began work Feb. 3 on finishing up the fields, comfort station, bleachers, drainage and roller hockey rink, said Monahan.

“We want to see this project finished as much as the College Point community does,” he said, but could offer no fixed date for completion.

The severe cold of the winter slowed up the outdoor project, said Monahan, affecting the ability of grass to grow on the fields.

Avella said the agency had been stalling on his requests for an on-site meeting to discuss the project’s progress. He also said $1.3 million that he had allocated for a soccer field and another baseball field in the project’s second stage had not been utilized, but $184,000 was being used for lighting and a scoreboard for the hockey rink.

State Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing) said she had allocated $250,000 that had gone unused, possibly for the second stage.

Monahan said a second stage had not been assigned to the agency. A Parks Department spokeswoman said there was not enough funding in place to begin the next phase of work.

“I am completely frustrated and disappointed with the constant delays and the kind of workmanship that produced the delays,” said Mayersohn.

“If you don’t do something immediately, another season is going to be lost,” said Avella.

Jerry Castro, president of the College Point Little League, said his teams would start their season on time using fields in Whitestone and Bayside.

Castro said that through hard work, the league’s membership had actually grown slightly from what it was at the time the fields were shut.

“Once those fields open and the word gets out—and they should be pretty decent fields—we should have even more people coming to us,” he said.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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