Howard Beach residents hoping to enjoy America’s pastime at Frank Charles Park will experience a whole new ballgame when visiting the ballfields.
The National Park Service (NPS) made repairs to the fields on April 8 through 10, including leveling the infields, filling in ridges that formed between the diamonds and the outfields and repairing the outfields.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder received numerous complaints from the Hamilton Beach community and Michael Baker, manager of the X-Bays Softball team in the Queens Metro ASA Softball league.
Baker said he has experienced problems with the field since he started playing on it eight years ago. The X-Bays team, which was formed in 2009 and plays on the field from April to August, has never seen the ballfields being maintained.
“The field has been in quite bad shape for years,” Baker said, “more so after [Hurricane] Sandy. After the storm it was like a beach. We’ve gotten a lot of heat from other teams in the league about how atrocious it was, so I finally said enough is enough.”
Baker emailed Goldfeder’s office and was surprised by the Assemblyman’s quick response.
“He responded within 15 minutes,” Baker said. “I fell off my chair. It was phenomenal.”
Goldfeder’s office contacted the agency that owns and operates Charles Park, NPS’s Gateway National Recreation Area, and requested they make the repairs. He also asked the agency to provide the team with equipment including shovels, rakes and infield clay so players could make minor game day repairs.
“These improvements will help prevent injuries and make games more enjoyable for players, families and the entire community,” Goldfeder said in a press release. “I’d like to thank the National Park Service for their quick response and partnership with the neighborhood.”
Baker and his co-manager Anthony Galetto would spend two to three hours every Saturday fixing the field and prepping it for Sunday morning, especially after it rained, Baker said.
“It became quite a nuisance after years and years and years,” Baker said. “Now it’s just such a pleasure. When it rains, it rained fairly hard last night and it’s holding up so well. We’re just very pleased.”
The X-Bays played their first game of the season on the new field on Sunday, April 12, and are currently 4-0.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better start on our repaired field,” Baker said.
Some Howard Beach residents want to make sure a local park is cleaned up before future development comes in.
Frank M. Charles Memorial Park, part of Gateway National Recreation Area and heavily damaged by Sandy, was listed as a site for potential concession stands, kayak launch bays or bike terminals in a request for proposal from NYC Parks Department and National Parks Service (NPS).
But Charles Park has been traditionally underfunded despite many facelift and cleanup efforts. It has experienced problems with athletic fields including broken fences and toppled mounds at its baseball fields that are used by locals.
Community Board 10 Chair Elizabeth Braton said while the board would be open to rebuilding Jamaica Bay, many members think replenishing the park should be NPS’ first priority before other attractions come in.
“The people in the community would be far more interested in seeing New York City Parks Department do some work on the ball parks there,” she said, “Or to work collaboratively with the federal parks people to get some real improvements there.”
Representatives from the Parks Department are scheduled to address Community Board 10 on Thursday, April 4, Braton said.
State Senator Joseph Addabbo said Charles Park has been underfunded because it competes with other parks nationwide, including Yosemite National Park and the Statue of Liberty.
If Charles Park is selected for one item in the project, Addabbo said he wants to see some federal money go into repairing the park. “We need to use some of the federal dollars to rebuild Charles Park,” he said.
Suzanne McCarthy, the deputy superintendent at Gateway, said in a statement that the proposals would help secure more funding, and the agency has future plans for the waterfront park.
“We see our request for proposal (RFP) with city parks as another opportunity for this community, not an obstacle to our continued clean up,” she said.