By The TimesLedger
In a lengthy article in last week’s TimesLedger, the reporter gives an overview of the debacle at the ballfields in College Point. The fields were padlocked in October 1997 and they are still not opened.
The sports complex was closed by the city Department of Sanitation when it was discovered a company hired to dump clean fill to regrade the fields had been dumping illegal construction debris. Although some politicians have tried to point the finger of blame at the College Point Sports Association and its then-president City Councilman Tony Avella, our reporter has found that there is plenty of blame to go around.
The biggest question remains unanswered: Why has it taken more than six years to remove the illegal waste and repair the fields? Each year more than 1,300 children have been deprived of the privilege to play Little League baseball, football, roller hockey and soccer. The sports programs have been devastated.
According to the Sanitation Department, Enviro-Fill – the Flushing company hired to rebuild the fields – dumped nearly 20,000 tons of dirt in less than a year. So why has it taken six years to remove the dirt? The job could have been done in six weeks, certainly in six months. The delay is nothing less than shameful and it has nothing to do with Avella or the College Point Sports Association.
At times it seems that the politics surrounding this debacle are as sullied as the soil.
The management of Enviro-Fill was indicted and convicted for dumping the construction material. But that was not enough for State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), who wrote in a letter to the Queens district attorney, “I feel that additional indictments should take place regarding the sports association and its officers at the time regarding these contracts as well as subsequent improprieties and the incidence of mismanagement of investments and equipment by the association.”
Padavan renewed his attack on Avella and the men and women of the Sports Association in an interview with another weekly paper and in a letter to the TimesLedger one day before the November election in which Avella was running against Phil Ragusa, a district leader for the Republican Party.
In a Nov. 3, 2003 letter to the editor sent to the TimesLedger Newspapers, Padavan said “financial mismanagement on the part of the College Point Sports Association, under the leadership of Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), causes work stoppages and construction delays.”
The accusation relates to the sports association’s selection of Enviro-Fill. He also cited sports group funds that were lost in the stock market. Members of the association say the investments were made before Avella was made president and Avella claims that he opposed the investment when he became president but was voted down.
The senator does not explain how questions about an investment account started in 1989 kept the city from fixing the ballfields. The sports association lost control of the fields in 1997, days after the debris was found on the fields.
Avella and the sports association should have kept closer watch over the trucks carrying soil to the fields. But what about the Sanitation Department? How is it possible that the Sanitation police did not find the illegal construction waste until the trucks had dumped 20,000 tons of soil? Unlike the coaches and other members of the Sports Association, these were trained professionals who should have spotted the debris.
To this day there is no credible explanation for the delay in fixing the ballfields in College Point. A generation of children has grown up without the opportunity to play sports on a home field. The families in College Point have been cheated out of an experience that most families in New York City take for granted.