Friday, May 1, 2009

Sit Down Protest By Roosevelt Island Youth Center Baseball Players Over Lack Of Access To Ball Fields Of Dreams

Protesting Roosevelt Island Youth Center Ballplayers at Capobianco Field Image From Adib Mansour

Remember David and Emilia? They were the very young Roosevelt Island Activists who protested a dangerous metal strip in front of a children's playground and got RIOC to fix the problem. Well, last Saturday there was another protest by young Roosevelt Island children but this time it was a Sit-In by the Roosevelt Island Youth Center Baseball players on the pitcher's mound at Capobianco Field.

A reader at the protest explains the reasons for the protest and problems encountered by the Roosevelt Island Youth Center's Baseball League access to ball fields.
In the last couple of years, Roosevelt Island residents and particularly the kids, have been getting less and less access to the fields as a result of their increased rental to outside (off Island) sports teams by RIOC. Additionally, these fields' cost to the RI Leagues (although at a discounted rate) further reduces their time practicing. All this translates to little or no time for our kids to play on our fields. At one point while I was coaching the minors' soccer league last fall, we had 4 teams practicing on one soccer field for one hour, twice a week - something that, in practicality, is utterly ridiculous.

This past Saturday, the RI Youth Center's baseball league kicked off the season at Copabianco Field with the first game beginning at 9:30 am and the second at 11:30 am. The morning started with a brief celebration-which was cut short because of time restraints- followed by the first game, which ran a little over in the last inning and finally the second game, which also in turn ran over because of the earlier delays. Since the field was only rented to the RI Youth Center until 1:30PM and then to an outside sports team at 1:30PM, there was no room for overtime and as a result our first conflict of the season began.

While the second game was still being played, the "outside" baseball team of adults, started practicing their pitching and batting at the far end of the field and slowly the balls were getting increasingly closer-putting our kids in jeopardy of being hurt. The psychological pressure on the kids, coupled by the physical and menacing presence of the outside team, this Saturday and on many other occasions in the past, led to the sit-in by the parents and kids (see photos) as a protest to what seems to be a blatant disregard by RIOC to the rights of the families in this community to have access to the island 's fields for organized and leisurely recreation. It is a violation of our rights as residents of this island and we are not going to put up with it anymore. Several parents have started a petition demanding priority time for our kids on the fields and parks and we hope that RIOC will be open to an amicable discussion about how this issue can be resolved, especially in lieu of new buildings cutting down park spaces, with increased number of residents.
The Sit-In Protest was described this way by the April 25-26 Roosevelt Island Daily Public Safety Report.
Verbal Dispute - Over baseball field between softball league and Roosevelt Island Youth Center. PSD responded. Group with permit stayed. Other group left.
Yesterday, I inquired of RIOC President Steve Shane:
I believe that some time last year, RIOC indicated that they would keep at least one ball field available for Island residents to use and not rent them out to off Island groups. Is that still the case?

With weather getting warmer and summer approaching, what is RIOC's policy regarding ball field use by Island groups, residents and Little League as we as off island organizations?
Mr. Shane replied by noting Octagon Field's temporary closing and forwarding this response from RIOC Program Coordinator Donna Masly:
Field permits for the spring and summer (up through August) can be submitted starting in January. Island residents and groups are allowed to submit January 1 and are given preference over off-island applicants, who may submit January 15.

Scheduling for the bulk of applicants is generally not finalized until mid-February. At any point in the season after January 15, applications are evaluated on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Due to the combination of the season (spring is softball-intensive and every resource is precious) and the unfortunate delay in permitting Octagon Field due to repairs, it was necessary to permit out Capobianco Field in a LIMITED capacity to accommodate requests. Parks and Recreation has every intention of once again granting open use of Capobianco Field once the softball season winds down.

The Roosevelt Island Youth Center's Little League program was granted every single date they requested. Unfortunately, very few permit requests come from Roosevelt Island Residents. I wish I had the pleasure of granting more permits to locals.

The permitting process is simple! Any interested applicant can visit our website-, fill out and submit a permit application which will then be promptly evaluated by yours truly.
Permit Fee Rates for Roosevelt Island Ball Fields are available at RIOC's web site.

A couple of additional photos from the protest are below.

Image from Lynn Marfey

Image from Adib Mansour

Maybe the Youth Center should hire David and Emilia as consultants?


Anonymous said...

I am very sure their dad will have a few words about this in the next WIRE. Anyway, I think the RIOC is doing the right thing about those fields: residents get a two week lead over off-island teams. Since there is a problem with one of the fields everybody needs to compromise until the issue is resolved. What again was this protest about?

Anonymous said...

Park space is extremely valuable in New York City. It's a source of income for RIOC.

What needs to be done here is A Roosevelt Island Little League needs to be made. I'm NOT talking about the league that'ss currently in place either. The Youth Center needs to affiliate themselves with the REAL Little League Inc. and become a legitimate league with opportunities to advance through Queens, City, State, and maybe even the Little League World Series.

If RIYB (the real name,not RILL) did this, they'd be able to get grants from Little League Inc for money. The reason for all of this?

The new Roosevelt Island Little League could get it's own field built. A nice one for once and it can be maintained and and run by RILL as opposed to RIOC. If RIOC really cared, they'd find some space to build a RILL field just for RILL...assuming of course that RIYB actually becomes RILL.

Anonymous said...

Yes, how dare people from the same city think to use a field in their city!

Clearly no Manhattanites have kids, so they don't deserve to have fields.

They should just play in the streets.

Anonymous said...

I'm in one of those "adult" sports leagues.

I remember when one mother took her two kids and they were HITTING BASEBALLS onto the field we were playing on.

Now, this wasn't even a particularly crowded time. You could have in theory taken some space - they clearly had none reserved - and hit the balls the other way.

But this moron of a mother was having the kids hit hard baseballs at the teams.

Sorry, but this works both ways. Everyone pays for these fields, so the blabbermouths should keep quiet, as they ALREADY have an advantage here in getting these fields.

AllMy Children said...

This was never sponsored by the Roosevelt Island Youth Program Baseball League and would never be, this was several parents.