This Used to Be My Playground

Giuliani’s Plans for a Parade Grounds Ballpark Leave Kids Out in the Cold

One answer lies in the six-page letters of agreement the city signed with the Mets and Yankees on January 13, in which EDC and the city promised to provide interim ballparks for both minor-league teams "commencing as early as June 1999." (For the Yanks' farm club, this has meant the College of Staten Island, whose ball field was gussied up at city expense for the Staten Island Yankees' June debut.) Those agreements were what laid the ground work for the mayor's grand plan for ball fields across the boroughs: $60 million for a stadium alongside the Staten Island Ferry terminal, an estimated $31 million for the Coney Island stadium, and the $6.5 million for the Parade Grounds site. All told, city expenditures on minor-league baseball are now approaching $100 million—nearly as much as the city's entire annual budget for parks maintenance.

ââ Increasing the frustration for residents is the fact that the Parade Grounds ballpark is not subject to hearings or environmental impact studies. As a temporary facility, it's been deemed by the city not to be a "major concession" and thus removed from such public scrutiny. But the Coney Island ballpark will be so examined, and residents there are likely to challenge that project, especially since the same Steeplechase site has long been pegged as the home of a city-funded amateur sports arena. It's one reason Parade Grounds neighbors are worried: If the Coney Island ballpark gets bogged down in environmental studies and community opposition, what's to stop the Mets from just hunkering down in their "temporary" park for good?

"There are lots of unused areas in Brooklyn, and this is not one of them," says Lynn, a self-proclaimed "professional soccer mom" watching her son play on what would be center field of the Mets ballpark. "I don't see how this area can accommodate the traffic, the parking, or sacrifice the fact that this is used as a park. There has to be another area here in Brooklyn that they can use without disrupting the community use."

Field of schemes: part of the parade grounds may be taken away from sporting residents.
photo: Pak Fung Wong
Field of schemes: part of the parade grounds may be taken away from sporting residents.

ACORN and CB 14 are discussing a lawsuit against the project for violating public review requirements, and the newly formed Save the Parade Grounds Coalition is planning a protest march across the Brooklyn Bridge this Sunday. Meanwhile, the youth leagues just hope that they'll still have a place to play next spring, with or without puddles. "I guess the soccer teams would have to rearrange their schedules, and we'd be reduced to this one field," says Dublin, the longtime Skyhawk. "I don't have any problem with the Mets bringing their farm team over here. My only gripe is that with all the different things needed within this park that are not in their budget, there are funds to build this stadium."

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