Island agency looks to score a summer hit with fields

By Ronda Kaysen

New Yorkers heading over to Governors Island this summer should pack their baseball mitts, because the ball fields will be open to the public for the first time in the island’s history.

On June 3, Governors Island will reopen for the summer. Two ball fields in the southern portion of the island will open to the public for the first time, with special attention being paid to educational and non-profit groups eager to reserve times on the fields and time for picnics and other group activities throughout the open areas of the island.

“We want to open this somewhat to make sure people get access to the island,” said Paul Kelly, interim president of Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, the agency that maintains the majority of the 172-acre island, at a Community Board 1 public meeting Monday.

The island will be open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., beginning a 14-week season that is two weeks longer than previous years and is expanded to include Fridays as well. In previous years, the island was open only on Saturdays.

The city and state purchased the slip of land from the federal government for $1 in 2002. The island is in need of extensive renovations and much of it has been restricted from public access. The National Park Service controls the northernmost 22 acres, giving tours in the summer. For the past three summers, GIPEC has opened select portions of remaining 150 acres to the public on Saturdays. Last summer, visitors enjoyed the promenade, the parade grounds and Colonel’s Row, a tree-lined neighborhood with historic brick houses and Liggett Hall, a Neo-Georgian brick building built in 1929.

But this summer, the island will open to the public on Fridays and groups will be able to play organized sports on the ball fields.

Already, organizations are vying for time on the fields. “We’re going to need that field space in years to come,” Vincent Licata, president of the Downtown Little League, told Kelly at the meeting. Licata asked Kelly if his group could reserve regular time allotments throughout the summer and if Downtown-based organizations would be given priority over other groups in the city.

Currently, Downtown Little League uses the $6 million ballfields in Battery Park City, one field with two baseball diamonds that was renovated and made permanent in 2003.

Groups throughout the city have inquired with GIPEC about access to the park, including groups in Brooklyn and other parts of Manhattan. “We don’t want to make it an exclusive field,” Kelly said. The island will also be undergoing extensive renovations next summer, and the ball fields might need to be closed periodically to accommodate the construction schedule.

C.B. 1 members, however, were eager to see their neighborhood given preference on the island, which lies within the board’s boundaries. “We want to be considered first because we brought this [opening the park to public uses] up,” said board member Una Perkins.

“And we don’t have Prospect Park in our backyard,” added board member Arthur Gregory, referring to Brooklyn residents who might have access to Prospect Park that borders a few Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Heeding neighborhood concerns, Kelly added later, “We certainly will give Community Board 1 first consideration.”


WWW Downtown Express