Little League President Asks: Can Even Half of Season Be Saved?

The fields remain much as they were after being flooded during Hurricane Sandy. The Battery Park City Authority says they cannot be repaired and must be replaced. Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

With the storm-damaged Battery Park City ball fields expected to be totally replaced, can any of the coming Little League season be saved?

In order to salvage even half the season—and get most of the 1,100 Downtown Little Leaguers up to bat—play would have to start by May 1, nearly two months late, says League President Bill Martino.

It is unknown whether that is possible, Martino said, and a lack of communication from the Battery Park City Authority—including unanswered calls and emails—is heightening the sense of concern and frustration among league officials and parents.

"Do we know [the Authority] is moving as fast as possible? We have no idea,"  Martino said to the Trib in a phone interview on Friday. "There's no sense of urgency to move things along."

"And things are going to get ugly," Martino added, "if I'm not able to give the community any sense of a time frame."

The Authority issued a statement on its web site Thursday saying that the turf must be replaced and its elaborate irrigation system cleaned and tested. The Authority said it will be issuing a request for proposals for the work, which it says cannot be completed in colder weather because of the type of glue used in the process.

"Such a deliberate course of action, and the more moderate temperatures necessary for the proper adhesion of the layers, make the duration of the project unknown at this time," the statement said.

In an email to the Trib, Authority spokesman Matt Monahan added: "It is in every one's best interest that the work be completed as soon as possible, but the time frame is not set by a calendar, but by the work that needs to be done."

Monahan said in the email that he does not know when responses for the request for proposals from prospective contractors are due. He said he also does not yet know what minimum temperatures are required for the work or how long the work will take once it can begin.

The original installation of the $3 million fields, in the summer of 2011, took about three months. It took nearly seven weeks for the Authority and its contractors to complete a damage assessment. The Authority announced on its website on Dec. 19 that the fields would need to be completely replaced.

The Authority says that three feet of flooding, laced with sewer backflow and water coming out of the Hugh L. Carey (Battery) Tunnel covered the fields. Recommendations from Stantec, the designer of the fields, and an independent consultant agreed that the turf and padding should be replaced rather than repaired, according to the Authority.

Anne Fenton, an Authority official, warned Martino in early December that the leagues should look for alternate fields.

"I got back to her saying the only alternative is to cancel our season," said Martino, who complains that Fenton has not responded to repeated calls and emails over the past 10 days. He said he understands that the Authority cannot give a date when the fields will be ready, but says the league would like to see the report on recommendations for the fields and be told the pace at which work will proceed.

"I'd like to think they'd work seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.," Martino said. "And why wouldn't they? If they don't, they are showing that they're not in a rush to complete this for the sake of our children."

Martino pointed to the reopening of the flooded Pier 40 fields as a model relationship between the groups of users and the operator—the Hudson River Park Trust.

"I realize the Pier 40 situation is much different but what is also much different is that there is a great collaboration and sharing of information and working together with the bigger users," Martino said. "Here there is nothing."