MOTT HAVEN — A pair of baseball fields at St. Mary's Park stay locked all day long, and some residents are crying foul.
The issue comes amid myriad complaints that the South Bronx's largest park has bathroom flooding issues and crumbling staircases and walkways, advocates say.
At Thursday’s Community Board 1 meeting, member Linda Ortiz singled out its locked baseball diamonds for criticism.
“The ballfield is locked all day,” she said. “That means if you have a son, and it’s your day off, and it’s his day off of school, and you go, you can’t play ball.”
Jailenne Pizarro, a 21-year-old who lives across the street, said she would also like to see the space open more often. She said it would be a positive alternative for children in the neighborhood.
"I would like to see the park open," she said.
Ortiz said she is in discussions with the Parks Department about the baseball fields at St. Mary’s and that she had heard multiple reasons for keeping it locked, including preventing dogs from running through it.
“There should not be a locked ball field in this community when a kid can pick up a ball instead of a gun,” she said. “There’s just no excuse for that.”
According to the Parks Department, the baseball fields are available to permit holders, which are typically leagues that use the fields frequently, spokesman Nathan Arnosti said. They are locked at other times to ensure that they remain safe and intact, he said, adding that they are occasionally kept open for public use if there are no scheduled games.
The research and advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks was critical of St. Mary’s in a recent report about open space in Mott Haven. It earned an “acceptable” rating for just 59 percent of its general maintenance inspections and 75 percent of its cleanliness inspections.
“St. Mary’s is the only large park in the South Bronx and offers recreation and leisure activities unavailable elsewhere in the neighborhood, which makes its poor maintenance a particularly troubling problem,” the report reads.
The report also said there had been numerous requests for youth and young adult athletic leagues in St. Mary’s Park and recommended that the Parks Department work with community groups to increase opportunities for organized sports.
New Yorkers for Parks cited the lack of working bleachers and lights at the ballfields in St. Mary’s as one of the issues that demands attention, along with “a bathroom that regularly floods, a playground with aging equipment, crumbling pathways, and deteriorating staircases on the eastern side of the park.”
NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said in a statement that his goal is to have "outstanding parks in every corner of every neighborhood" and that the department is working on plans to ensure that resources are distributed fairly.
But Community Board 1 member Michael Brady expressed frustration about the low amount of resources he said St. Mary's receives despite serving a large population.
"This is indicative of the South Bronx as a whole," he said, "and it’s a travesty that something as simple as a ballfield is not made accessible to the community."
However, Chris Amarosa, Section Coordinator for Little League International, which represents all the little leagues in New York's five boroughs, said he felt differently. He maintained that it was good to keep the fields secure for safety reasons.
"It's better locked than unlocked," he said.