LOWER MANHATTAN — Repairs have yet to begin on Battery Park City’s damaged ballfields, but that hasn’t stopped nearly 1,000 Lower Manhattan kids from registering for the upcoming Little League season — nor should it, says Downtown Little League President Bill Martino.
"We're confident we'll get a full season," Martino said. "And frankly, these ballfields are the only place that can accommodate all these kids."
But exactly how that will happen in time for the season's April start date still isn't sorted out.
Earlier this month, the Battery Park City Authority announced that because of extensive Hurricane Sandy damage — the fields were covered with three feet of murky floodwaters and sewer backflow — the artificial turf would have to be completely replaced. The BCPA also said it couldn’t estimate how long the repairs would take, and advised Downtown Little League teams to look elsewhere for the season.
“BPCA has informed the Downtown Little League that in no way can it assure the organization that the fields will be ready for a full season of play and that it would be wise to examine alternate field locations,” the BCPA wrote on its website. The authority said it had secured a space in Rockefeller Park on Saturdays between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. for the league's 5-year-old division.
Since then, Martino says the Downtown Little League hasn't gotten answers about the BCPA's timeline. With the season fast approaching, residents, officials and community board members are now demanding the authority speed up its repair schedule.
State Senator Daniel Squadron released a statement Friday calling for the authority to get to work immediately. "Let's be clear: it is absolutely vital that the BPCA figures out how to get work started on the fields by the beginning of next month — period," he wrote. “And the Authority must allow work and process to proceed in the fastest possible way, with the goal of opening the fields in time for the 2013 Downtown Little League season.”
State Assemblyman Sheldon Silver also released a similar statement earlier, demanding that BCPA act quickly.
On Monday, the BCPA announced that it had officially issued requests for proposals, or RFPs, to replace the artificial grass. The process will also include testing the soil and irrigation systems, as well as treating any further problems revealed when the layers of damaged artificial field are removed. The RFPs are due at the beginning of February.
BCPA spokesman Matthew Monahan said that the fields are a "priority project" for the authority.
"The BCPA is fully committed to taking every measure necessary to compress the work schedule," Monahan said. The timeline for the project, though, won't be known until after the authority picks a company to replace the turf.
Martino says with the backing of local officials, he feels more optimistic that work will move quickly on the project.
The fields, located on West Street between Warren and Murray streets, were updated with environmentally friendly turf in 2011. That installation took about three months.
"We understand that Hurricane Sandy was hugely destructive, and I think, ultimately, everyone involved has the same goal — to get our kids playing," Martino said.