By Connor Adams Sheets
The founder of a new youth soccer league based in northeast Queens said Monday its 243 players are being shortchanged by the city Parks Department.
About half of Football Club New York United’s members are from College Point, Whitestone or Flushing, but their parents have to drive across the borough for many practices and games.
The league, formed in fall 2007, has permits for four hours of play each week at the recently upgraded College Point Fields soccer pitches at 130th Street and 23rd Avenue, but must spend the other two-thirds of their permitted time at fields in Forest Park in Woodhaven and St. Michael’s Park in Astoria.
The extra travel time involved in that arrangement has drawn the ire of the league’s president and founder, Mike Koutsounadis of Flushing, and its vice president, Anastasios Manaris of Whitestone.
“The field they’ve given us for Saturdays is Forest Park, which is a football field not lined for soccer. The parents are outraged,” Manaris said. “It’s a shame because we have to drive 30 minutes to Forest Park for the field they gave us when there are these great fields here.”
The pair have asked the Parks Department to allow them to use College Point Fields for two hours Tuesdays and four hours Saturday morning, but the request has been denied. They alleged that one of the other Queens youth soccer leagues rents its permit out to an adult league in violation of Parks Department rules, but the agency said there is no evidence of such a practice taking place.
“We’re not asking for more time than we already have,” Koutsounadis said. “We’ll gladly give up the time at Forest Park and St. Michael’s to have that time in our own community.”
The Parks Department follows a permitting process that has been in place for many years when deciding which leagues get priority. About 4,000 children play soccer in 49 leagues on 33 fields in Queens alone, according to the agency.
“The Parks Department does its best to accommodate all requests, but the high demand for playing time makes it extremely challenging to give every league the exact times and locations they request,” a Parks Department representative said in a statement. “Queens Parks officials worked closely with the FC New York United Team to give them the times they asked for, but were unable to permit the league on their first choice fields for all the hours they wanted.”
Koutsounadis and Manaris met March 30 with Joanne Colorundo, the Parks Department employee who does the scheduling for Queens soccer fields, and were told it was not possible to grant them more time at the College Point location.
Youth leagues always come first, according to the Parks Department, but some older leagues with more players, such as the Auburndale Soccer Club and the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League, may get special consideration over new leagues, according to the agency. Some leagues that play at College Point Fields have been around for decades, so they may get first dibs on prime hours there, the agency said.
FC New York United player Ylli Kosturi, 12, said he prefers the College Point location.
“It’s a new field. It’s fresh turf. It’s closer to my house and it’s big,” the mid-fielder said while taking a break from practice Monday evening. “If we could only go to one field, this one’s better. It’s not crowded.”