Pols send letter on ballfields

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As the city hauls tons of debris from the long-dormant College Point Sports Complex, four local legislators have sought to better inform their constituents about the details on the rebuilding of the site in a letter.

"The last several months have been witness to innumerable rumors surrounding the sports complex in College Point," read the Jan. 18 letter signed by U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Fresh Meadows) and City Councilman Mike Abel (D-Bayside).

"We wanted to take this opportunity to clarify some of the issues and update you on the status of this important project," the four elected officials wrote.

The letter was supposed to have arrived in the mailboxes of College Point residents this past week.

It detailed the results of a mid-January meeting held at City Hall between the four elected officials and representatives from the city Parks Department and city Department of Design and Construction.

In an interview, Padavan said the meeting was arranged by Deputy Mayor Joseph Lhota.

Last spring, $5 million was allocated in the mayor's 1999-2000 budget to begin a four-phase reconstruction of the sports complex, which was closed in 1997 following a botched renovation and drainage project that left the site covered with debris.

More than 1,300 children from all over Queens once used the fields. The closing left Little Leaguers scrambling to find fields, forced a soccer club to cancel summer intramurals for 300 kids and prompted a champion girls soccer team to disband.

The city Department of Sanitation began removing half of the estimated 86,000 cubic yards of remaining debris in mid-December. The elected officials said work will continue into March, when a private contractor will be hired to finish the cleanup.

The elected officials' letter said the remainder of the first phase of the reconstruction is as follows:

By the time the estimated 86,000 cubic yards of debris is removed, the fields will be brought down to approximately one foot above sidewalk level.

The first phase of the reconstruction will cost an estimated $8.3 million and includes the design and construction of two Little League fields, a new roller hockey rink, a main access road, perimeter fence and gates, an electronic score board, lighting and landscaping.

"We're going to finish the design during the spring," said John Spavins, a spokesman for the city Department of Design and Construction. "There are things we can't do on the design until the Sanitation Department completes clearing that area."

Spavins said the intention was to put the project out to bid and break ground by the fall, and ideally the first phase of reconstruction would be completed some time in 2001.

"Discussions have already begun with the Parks Department to ensure that there are fields available for the upcoming season," wrote the four officials.

Padavan noted that he, Crowley, Mayersohn and Abel would be seeking state and federal funds to add to the mayor's $5 million and pay for the first phase.

The elected officials said a junior soccer field, two Little League fields, a football field, a track, adult baseball and soccer fields, a field house and off-street parking would also be built at the complex in the future.

Spavins, however, could not provide details on the three remaining phases of the reconstruction.

"I don't have any figures or anything related to any other phase," he said. "Just how the other phases would be scheduled and funded has to be decided."

Some sources have said the entire project could cost around $36 million.

Mildred Auletta, a College Point resident and member of Community Board 7, said she was pleased with the letter about the complex.

"It finally has some positive information," Auletta said. "The delays that were going on - power plays, politics, whatever - it was really uncalled for because the only victims were the kids."

Tony Avella, president of the College Point Sports Association, said the proposed reconstruction was similar to the original renovation plans of the early 1990s.

"They're basically building the facility the way we wanted it," Avella said, adding pressure needed to be kept on the city agencies involved to make sure the project moves ahead as quickly as possible.

For years, the College Point Sports Association leased the sports complex property from the city for $1 and local teams competed there in baseball, soccer, football and roller hockey games.

The failed reconstruction and drainage project was overseen by Enviro-Fill and was to have paid for itself by having contractors pay a fee to dump clean fill on the site. But the end result was tons of illegal debris being spread over the area and the 1997 closure.

Coaches and players were forced to make due at other facilities and in the spring of 1998, the city decided not to renew the sports association's lease. Blame has been cast on all sides, from Enviro-Fill to the Department of Sanitation to members of the College Point Sports Association.

After environmental tests showed no evidence of contamination, the city cleaned up a portion of the mounds of debris in March and April 1999.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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