Creedmoor’s neighbors to Mets: Let’s play ball!

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Communities surrounding Creedmoor Psychiatric Center say they would welcome the construction of a baseball stadium on the site if plans fall through for a Mets minor league stadium on the St. John's University campus.

New York City, the Mets and St. John's earlier this year announced plans to build a 3,500-seat stadium to house a Mets minor league Class A-team on the university's campus, but residents of Jamaica Estates and neighborhoods around the university oppose its construction.

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) has led the fight to stop the Mets from building the stadium at St. John's and urged the club to develop the Creedmoor ballfields instead.

"We will take them any time," said Richard Hynes, president of the Bellerose-Hillside Civic Association, which boarders the Creedmoor campus. "I told Padavan a couple of months ago we would take the team with open arms. They already have a stadium in there."

Hynes said "this we want in our back yard" in sharp contrast to the residents from Jamaica Estates, Hillcrest Estates and Fresh Meadows whose rallying cry is "not in our back yard."

The proposed $5.5 million stadium, to be financed by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, is scheduled for completion in June. The plan calls for the Mets team to use the stadium for two years before moving to a permanent site at the old Steeple Chase Park in Brooklyn. The stadium then would revert to St. John's University's ownership.

According to Ed DeCosmo, spokesman for Padavan, the Creedmoor land is a viable option and an alternative to building on the campus. He said the existing stadium could be developed for St. John's baseball team and/or the Mets.

Before the Mets entered the picture, St. John's received final state approval on Sept. 7 to purchase or lease 10 acres of surplus land at the psychiatric center and develop it into a baseball stadium.

When the state approved the sale, which is valid until the end of 2000, St. John's had intended to repair the existing stadium for university and community use, said Joseph Sciame, vice president for government and community relations at the university.

"Right now our plans would be to use the Creedmoor property as an athletic field," said Jody Fisher, university spokesman. "There is the possibility the university will use it for women's athletics, but we are still tossing around ideas."

Fisher said the university was always interested in the Creedmoor property. "Our interest has never waned," he said.

The major difference between the two locations is that a buffer zone exists between the community and the Creedmoor site, while the proposed campus stadium borders the surrounding neighborhood, DeCosmo said.

Corey Bearak, Queens Civic Congress executive vice president, said a stadium at Creedmoor would be a positive asset for community fund-raising events and Little League, and would also provide an economic boost for area delis and restaurants.

"Having a field like that would be attractive to the community, which is looking forward to getting the field redone," Bearak said.

Sally Martino-Fisher, Community Board 13 district manager, said the board has not addressed the issue, but she has heard "mostly positive feedback" about Creedmoor fields.

"Anything that goes into the Creedmoor property will not hurt the community," said Bernard Aquilino, Rocky Hills Civic Association president.

"I don't have a problem with the field as long as people park inside. I know the local merchants feel it would be good for them."

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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