A roller hockey rink opened at the College Point ballfields Sunday, the final portion of a $5 million project to enhance the site with the addition of a Little League baseball diamond, level grass playing fields, a park house, lights and other amenities.The completed project is the first phase of a two-part plan to add other sports fields for soccer, football and track that will cost $2.2 million. About $1 million of that amount has been set aside in this year's city budget.Why the seven-year wait?In 1997, city officials closed the park because of an illegal dumping scandal involving various government agencies and the Flushing contractor hired at the time to do the original renovations, who instead dumped illegal construction waste at the site. Some 1,300 children were left without place to play softball, baseball and roller hockey. What followed were years of decontamination efforts, negotiations between the city and developers and the hiring of a new contractor.As for the work that remains to be done on phase two, Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), said he would not rest until the remaining $1.2 million was found."Sometimes I feel like we're moving mountains," he said at the dedication of the roller hockey rink. Avella was president of the College Point Sports Association when a Flushing contractor hired to renovate the fields dumped construction waste on the site in 1997.Lawsuits also emerged during this period. The fired contractor, ADC Contracting of College Point, sued the city for wrongful termination. In turn, the city filed a $16.5 million suit against the sports association and its former contractor in October 2004 to cover clean-up and renovation costs.Meanwhile, about 1,300 children athletes were without a place to play. But on Sunday Avella had on a happier face.He said he was now working with Mayor Bloomberg and the Parks Department to expedite the rest of the project. After slapping the opening shot on the new roller rink, he stood on the sidelines watching teams of young players break in the state-of-the-art "blue ice" surface under the lights and scoreboards that his discretionary funds provided.College Point Roller Hockey President Tony Mongeluzzi said some 150 borough skaters would no longer have to endure the aging eyesore down the street that served as their interim rink for 23 years."I wonder now how we played on that thing it was repadded so many times," he said.A group of small players on roller-blades reeled off improvements: bigger, smoother, better doors..."I used to trip a lot more on the old one," one player concluded. Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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