Today’s news:

Neighbors rally to protest College Point field delays

“Ten blocks from Shea, no place to play!”

About 20 young athletes and their parents carried signs to protest the ongoing construction of the College Point ballfields, demanding a place to play Little League when the season begins this spring.

“We need to get the park open,” Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said weeks before the Little League season should officially begin. If the fields remained closed, it will be the seventh spring that the College Point ballfields have been padlocked since contractors were caught dumping illegal fill on the site.

There is still no set date for the opening of the ballfields. Matthew Monahan, a spokesman for the Department of Design and Construction, said the fields will be completed within two to three weeks, barring any unforeseen delays. As of Tuesday, employees were still working on landscaping and construction of the restrooms at the site.

“We know it will be soon, but soon isn’t a circled date on the calendar,” he said.

Monahan appeared at the rally Saturday morning to give the group an impromptu tour of the facility.

“It was just a show-and-tell,” Avella said. “No specific information was given other than what I already knew.”

The agency will turn the fields over to the city Department of Parks and Recreation after the completion of construction. Work on the site has been delayed multiple times within the past year as a contractor and an insurance company were both fired for what the city called shoddy construction.

The contractor maintained the city agency acted irresponsibly in its management of the construction of the site.

Now Avella is pushing for the completion of “stage one” of the site and the drafting of plans for “stage two” of the development of the park.

“There’s certainly enough money to begin the design work on that,” Avella said. He said he has raised $1.3 million, state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing) has raised $250,000 and U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) has contributed $75,000 for the second phase of the park, which should include a soccer and Little League field. The final cost of construction has not yet been determined.

Stage one, which workers were still finalizing during the weekend of the protest, included a baseball field, Little League field, roller hockey rink and restrooms. Monahan said the original work on the roller rink was so insufficient that the latest contractor had to remove the rink and would build a new one.

“They’re working feverishly to get it open,” Avella said. On the day he and residents marched through the site, he said there were more workers there than had been on the fields at any point during the winter.

“I had gotten a number of comments from the residents, saying the mayor is so concerned about building a stadium for the Jets, what about the kids in this community?” Avella asked.

Two weeks ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg slammed Avella for his involvement with the College Point Sports Association when the dumping occurred. Avella was president of the organization when the contractor was spotted dumping potentially harmful fill on the site.

After being elected to office in 2001, Avella left the sports association due to a conflict of interest.

He said he was frustrated with the city’s inability to begin stage two of the ballfields project, especially with all the funding in place.

“The money’s there. Maybe it’s not enough to finish the whole project, but it’s at least enough to get started,” he said. “We’re desperately in need of a soccer field.”

As for the opening of Little League season, Avella said he hopes this will not be another spring without a home field for College Point’s children.

“If they don’t make this season, they’ve failed again.”

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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