Seeing red over green grass

Tim Cavanaugh, head coach for the intermediate team and vice president of the Queens Falcons football squad, said he has never been treated so disrespectfully in his entire life.

For the past 22 years, Cavanaugh and the Falcons have been practicing and playing games at Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village. Now, the Queens team is suing the city in what has become a battle for the grass gridiron.

Almost three weeks ago, Cavanaugh and his intermediate team were abruptly booted off their own home field when the parks department director and district managers had to escort the youngsters off the grass.

“We were essentialy in the middle of getting our season started … that was the last time we saw the field,” said Cavanaugh, who played with the Falcons on Juniper Valley Park fields when he was a kid. “Look, our team is much more then a field, but what they are doing to us is ridiculous.”

The Falcons are being stripped of their land due to the conditions that the fields are being left in after practices and home games. The heated confrontation circles around Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, who was the leading force in removing the teams that are comprised of over 200 kids, ages eight to 16, from the field.

Lewandowski declined to comment on the lawsuit or situation, but in a letter to the Falcons, the commissioner said that the parks and fields are only suitable for baseball games to be played on.

The commissioner suggested that the Falcons, like most other youth football teams, play on synthetic-turf fields. The Falcons now have to play at the two designated fields: Forest Park in Kew Gardens and Mafera Park.

“The fields at Forest Park and Mafera Park have been built specifically for football,” Lewandowski said in the letter. “What we cannot continue to do is expect our youth to play football on ball field outfields when football fields are available and can exceed the needs of the organization.”

Cavanaugh complains that the turf fields are potentially harmful to the children and him. He feels they might emit high levels of carcinogen and lead, and when heat surface rises on the field – that can be very dangerous.

“When I get out of the field and go to sleep, I feel like I’m on fire and a coat of radiation is on me … it’s just not healthy,” he said.

On many occasions, the parks department has stated that they have tested and checked all of the synthetic-turf fields. Results from their studies have concluded that the fields are safe to play on – Cavanaugh thinks they only test a couple fields around the area, but fail to go to every park and execute individual tests.

“The bottom line is that the kids want to play sports and don’t understand the long term ramifications of playing on harmful turf fields,” Cavanaugh said.

The lawsuit was filed on September 16, and the organization is going to play their games on their assigned fields while they wait to go to court.

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