By Julie Shapiro
BATTERY PARK CITY — Local residents were outraged this week upon learning that a squabble between government agencies is delaying repairs to a heavily used field in Battery Park City that's devolved into a mud pit.
The State Department of Transportation was supposed to install new sod on the muddy field this spring — but the work is on hold because officials have not been able to reach an agreement on how the grass will be maintained once it's in place.
"The victims are the children and adults who want to use the park," said Linda Belfer, chairwoman of Community Board 1's Battery Park City Committee, upon hearing of the disagreement at a meeting on Tuesday. "It seems to me very silly that it's still hanging on. … It really disturbs me."
The problems with the West Thames Park lawn started shortly after it opened last summer. The soil had too much clay in it, which prevented water from draining and almost immediately killed the grass. Since then, the field has been a big mud puddle.
The State Department of Transportation, which built the park, agreed to replace the sod this spring, but first needs someone to step forward and promise to maintain the new lawn, said Lisa Weiss, SDOT's urban design director. Weiss said the last thing she wants is to put in new sod and have it die because it's not being watered properly.
The Battery Park City Authority previously agreed to maintain the park, but now the authority does not want to make any commitments until the Hudson River Park Trust, which owns the land, declares the park complete, said Leticia Remauro, a BPCA vice president. There are still several "punch-list" items that State DOT hasn't finished, and that is what's holding things up, Remauro said.
The Hudson River Park Trust did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Residents at the Battery Park City Committee meeting Tuesday night quickly ran out of patience for the finger pointing.
"You need to resolve your dispute," said Jeff Galloway, co-chairman of the committee. "You're big boys and girls."
Galloway said if the argument were not resolved by the first week in June, the committee would pass a resolution "lambasting" all the parties involved.
High-level officials at the Battery Park City Authority and State DOT are scheduled to meet next week, and representatives of both agencies said they hoped to have an agreement soon.
But the clock is ticking: If the state doesn't install the sod by the end of May, it will have to wait for the cooler weather this fall, Weiss said.
Once the sod is installed, the lawn will have to close for at least six weeks for the roots to take hold.
Weiss also said that State DOT still plans to reinstall the controversial tire swing in the park, but she has not yet set a date.