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College Point Opening Day brings Little Leaguers home

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On Saturday, the College Point Little League kicked off its season with a parade down College Point Boulevard over to the ballfield park at 25th Avenue and Ulmer Street.Organized by the College Point Sports Association, members of the neighborhood's roller hockey and soccer teams also marched in the high-spirited parade, giving no sign of the prolonged controversy over the park.In 1997, the city shut down the park because of an illegal dumping scandal that involved various municipal agencies and the Flushing contractor who was hired to renovate the site and dumped illegal construction waste there instead. The site was gradually decontaminated and the project stalled over the next few years, but eventually moved ahead with a $5 million renovation with new ballfields, a park house, and a new roller hockey rink that opened in January. There are plans, if not funding, to build a soccer field next. The city has filed a $16.5 million lawsuit against the sports association and its former contractor to recoup clean-up and renovation costs.But under the sunshine, all of that was put aside as children, decked out in jerseys and hats, made their way to the green fields."We're all excited about the new park," said Tony Mongeluzzi, president of the College Point Roller Hockey Stars. "This is perfect."State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) hailed the community's involvement with keeping their neighborhood sports alive."All the fields, all the money in the world wouldn't have any meaning without parents and volunteers," he said. "You can't pay for that.""I feel great," said Lynn Bartley, who was dancing on the sidewalk to the tunes of the Francis Lewis High School marching band. "They gave our kids a ballfield to play on, keep them off the streets." At the ballfield, the boys and girls gathered with their parents and coaches to dedicate one field to the memory of Michael V. Rinaldi, another College Point Little Leaguer who died of cancer 11 years ago at the age of 10."We're here today to rededicate this field as a living memorial in his memory," said City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who was once president of the College Point Sports Association.Michael's brother Danny, now 17 and a senior at Frank Sinatra High School, sang the national anthem in a pure voice before the plaque bearing Michael's name was unveiled."It's a nice day, knowing the field is getting renamed," he said. "It's happy and sad at the same time."Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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