By Jeremy Walsh
A well-known Queens youth football league has thrown a hail Mary pass in its bid to continue playing on the grass at Juniper Valley Park after its permits were not renewed this summer.
The Queens Falcons, who have used the park for 22 years, has had its permits to use the field between two baseball diamonds revoked, some say after a resident called the city Parks Department to complain about a double-parked car belonging to the parent of one of the players.
“We have a feeling it added fuel to the fire,” said league Vice President Tim Cavanaugh.
The league, which currently includes 260 children and teens ages 7-16, has filed a lawsuit against Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski and the Parks Department in Queens Supreme Court.
“We’re going to fight them on this,” Cavanaugh said. “At the end of the day, parks are for kids. They are not the commissioner’s trophy.”
The team’s games will be played at Victory Field in Woodhaven and at Mafera Park in Ridgewood as well as the upper field in Juniper Valley Park every Sunday morning, but Cavanaugh said this creates a number of logistical problems for families with children on multiple teams playing at different locations.
“Just for the kids, it’s a nightmare,” he said, noting the switch also means purchasing extra sets of down markers and other equipment, which they cannot store at the other parks locations.
“Our Queens permit office is willing to work with them and the Queens commissioner certainly will be willing to discuss their concerns,” said Parks spokesman Phil Abramson.
The Parks Department maintains that the league was moved to artificial turf fields designed for football play.
“Basically they had been playing on the baseball outfield in the past,” said Abramson, denying the move was about the double-parked parent. “There really wasn’t an alternate location. Now we have these fields that were specifically designed for football.”
League President Greg Hoffman said the move was a slap in the face since the park carries banners memorializing his twin brother, Stephen, a Falcons coach who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“There’s a tradition,” Greg Hoffman said. “This field is our home.”
Hoffman also wondered why a youth soccer league was allowed to continue to keep playing between the baseball diamonds.
“If you’re going to single out football, I have a problem with that,” he said.
Abramson said the soccer league was for smaller children and did not cause as much wear to the field.
Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said he hoped both sides would come to an agreement, noting both entities had the park’s best interests in mind.
“Maybe Juniper Civic can mediate this a bit,” he said. “I don’t know, we can try. I think it can be worked out.”
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.