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Avella lauds additions to College Point Fields

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Former City Councilman Tony Avella announced last week the completion of the second phase of construction of a sports facility at the College Point Fields.

The long-awaited completion of the second of three phases, which he announced at a small event there Aug. 24, comes at the end of more than a dozen controversy-ridden years of work by Avella and other community leaders to provide sports fields for area sports organizations and teams.

“It’s gratifying to see the park dream come to fruition and I don’t think any other field in Queens can compare to it now,” said Avella, who is running for the seat currently held by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose). “We have a facility everyone can be proud of.”

The second phase included creating a soccer field, new Little League fields and renovations to the existing baseball fields and roller-skating rink.

Between October 1997 and April 2004, the College Point fields were closed due to an illegal dumping scandal that left 1,300 children without a place to play sports. In April 2004, the $7 million first phase of work was completed and children returned to the fields. The second phase cost $6 million to complete.

The ballfields, at Ulmer Street and 25th Avenue, were closed in 1997 during renovations by Enviro-Fill, a Flushing company, after illegal construction debris was found on the 22-acre site. Enviro-Fill officials and demolition company owners were later convicted and sentenced for dumping the waste.

Avella was president of the College Point Sports Association at the time of the dumping, but maintained Tuesday that responsibility for the incident should be placed with Enviro-Fill.

“We hired a contractor to do the right thing and he didn’t. He was convicted,” he said. “Let’s say your washing machine breaks in your house and you hire someone to come into your house and fix it, is that your fault for hiring a contractor with good intentions?”

Tony Cusenza, president of First Sports Club of College Point, seems to have put those issues behind him and is more focused on the benefits the project will bring to area children.

“This is a dream come true for us. We used to play in the dirt, now we have a standard-sized soccer field to play in,” he said. “Thanks to Tony Avella, who was the champion of the project in seeing this through.”

Some Queens leaders were upset that Avella announced the second phase’s completion without issuing an invitation to the general public.

Avella acknowledged Tuesday that Padavan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing) and others helped make the project a reality, but that he had intended for the Aug. 24 announcement´╗┐ to be “just a little celebration between myself and the members of the sports association.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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