The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Fenced Off Ball Fields at Riverside South to Open for a Price

By Leslie Albrecht | March 29, 2011 1:52pm | Updated on March 29, 2011 2:12pm

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — A set of ball fields reserved for residents of a luxury apartment complex will be open to the public — at a price.

Extell Development Company, which owns the ball fields in front of the Riverside South high-rise development, told Community Board 7's parks committee Monday night that they'll open the brand new fields to children in organized athletic leagues at a cost of $25 an hour.

The baseball, volleyball and soccer fields were completed last summer, then fenced off. Only residents of ritzy Riverside South — where Robin Williams reportedly rents a $15,000 month apartment  — were allowed to use the fields, for $20 an hour.

When Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez recently bought an apartment in Riverside South's Rushmore building for a reported $5.5 to $6 million, Extell said in a statement that the baseball field outside A-Rod's front door was the "clincher" in the deal.

But in a neighborhood with a chronic shortage of Little League field space, the residents-only restrictions prompted "many inquiries" to Community Board 7 and City Councilwoman Gale Brewer's office, said CB7 parks committee co-chair Klari Neuwelt at Monday's meeting.

"We're always short for fields," West Side Little League president Debbie Kling told DNAinfo in November. "If I could get a slot there on Sunday mornings I would love it."

Now Kling and other Little League officials will have more options, but some at Monday's meeting questioned the $25 an hour price tag and limited hours.

"I can't imagine how a public school is going to be able to cover ($25 an hour), it pretty much cuts them out of that deal," said Community Board 7 member Marisa Maack.

Extell consultant Brenda Levin said the arrangement is a "work in progress" and adjustments to the fee and schedule could be made in the future.

The fields will be available four hours a day, six days a week, for three seasons: spring, summer and fall, said Levin.

It won't be possible to schedule time on the fields more than a week in advance, which means coaches can't line up the fields for regular practice time.

Kling said Monday night that the lack of advance scheduling will "stymie" Little League teams looking to schedule practices for the season.

West Side Little League serves 1,300 kids, ages six to 17, and gives full scholarships to children who can't otherwise afford to play, Kling said.

"If we could use these fields on a regular basis ... it would be very helpful to an organization that's helpful to the community," Kling said.

The fields will eventually become part of a public park along the Hudson River in front of Riverside South, a string of high-rises stretching from West 72nd Street to West 64th Street on Riverside Boulevard.

In 2007, the parks department asked Extell to halt work on the park while the state Department of Transportation completed construction on a southbound tunnel for the West Side Highway, said Extell spokesman George Arzt.

By 2009, no progress had been made on the tunnel, Arzt said, and the future park land had become a neighborhood eyesore.

"It was a dirt pit," Levin said. "Extell felt it wasn't fair to the neighborhood to leave it that way."

Extell decided to build the fields as a temporary improvement. Eventually the land will be transferred to the city and become a public park, but that won't happen for several years, Extell representatives said Monday.