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B&B to force out youth sporting events

Coney Island’s preservationists may like Mayor Bloomberg’s preliminary rezoning plan, but it could leave the area’s children to vote on it with their feet. That after the tykes will need to nomadically trudge to Gravesend once the city razes their beloved and popular little league and soccer fields to make way for the renovated B&B Carousell. The little league/soccer fields are behind the right field bleachers at KeySpan Park, abutting the boardwalk. Several local organizations obtain permits through the city’s Parks Department to run youth baseball and soccer programs seven days a week from March through December. Under the city’s 2.2-acre Steeplechase Plaza plan unveiled last week, the fields will be razed for the carousel, concessions, a possible water park and a green open performance area. Steeplechase Plaza also houses the landmarked Parachute Jump. According to a city Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) spokesperson, the ballfields are being moved to Dreier-Offerman/ Calvert Vaux Park in Gravesend as part of a $40 million renovation investment announced last summer. The move also had the approval of the Community Board 13, according to the spokesperson. But CB 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal said he doesn’t recall there being a vote on the razing of the Steeplechase fields and their moving to Dreier-Offerman Park. The CIDC and EDC came before the board with an initial presentation for Steeplechase Plaza a few months back, but it was only shown as an idea in progress, said Reichenthal, who is also a CIDC board member. Reichenthal said that it is in the CIDC’s initial strategic plan that the ballfields for area youth would be used for something else and moved to Dreier-Offerman Park. City Councilmember Domenic Recchia said he also doesn’t recall the community board weighing in on the move. “I brought it [razing of the ballfields] to the attention of the Bloomberg administration, and they said they can go to Dreier-Offerman,” said Recchia. “The little kids of Coney Island can’t travel that far. However, I made a strong recommendation in the new park they plan to develop on the other side of Childs Restaurant that a new active recreation should be built and the administration said they would look into that,” he added. Five organizations currently receive permits for the Steeplechase fields, either for soccer or baseball, seven days a week from March through December, according to Parks Department spokesperson Phil Abramson. They are the Police Athletic League, Our Lady of Solace Church, the Sign Shop League, First Chernomonets USA, and the Brooklyn Cyclones. “As alternatives, there is a soccer field available at Kaiser Park that we will assign additional permits to,” said Abramson. “We are also already constructing the first two soccer fields of the six that are planned for Calvert Vaux Park. As soon as they are finished, we will open them up for groups to play on.” Kaiser Park is located along the northwest corridor of Coney Island across the Coney Island creek from Gravesend and Dreier-Offerman Park. Abramson said Kaiser Park has a softball field and a baseball field which will be made available to these groups, and at Calvert Vaux Park there are two softball fields that will be made available. But Father Patrick West, the pastor of Our Lady of Solace Church, 2866 West 17th Street, said the move of the playing fields concerns him greatly. The church has about 300 kids participating at Steeplechase Park. “We have two games going at one time plus tee-ball all day on Saturday and two or three days during the week,” said West. West said when the CIDC presented their initial preliminary rezoning plan at the church about a month ago — the same day that Bloomberg announced the plan at a Gargiulo’s Restaurant luncheon — nobody mentioned the plans to raze the fields, West said. “I never got the impression looking at the grand plan that this [ballfields] was on the chopping block,” he said. West said many of the kids participating in the program are able to walk to the Steeplechase fields and providing rides to these children to Dreier-Offerman Park would be logistically difficult. And utilizing the popular Kaiser Park on the northwest end of Coney Island presents other problems, he added. “A lot of other programs use Kaiser, so we’d be squeezed for time and place there,” said West.

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