Runners race time to delay repairs

By David Spett

For marathon runner Thom Little the upcoming renovation of the E. Sixth St. track and field will cause a major inconvenience.

Little, 34, who placed 72nd overall in the 2005 New York City Marathon, was one of seven people who spoke about the track, located in East River Park, at the June 27 Community Board 3 meeting. Little and others are concerned because the planned renovation will close the entire track and field until November, and there is no other track nearby where runners can practice.

“There’s no denying this field needs a little work,” he said. “And it’s convenient for them to close the park all at once, but it’s very inconvenient for us. They should partially close it and do some work only when they have to.”

The track and field are slated to close July 10, said Carli Smith, a Parks Department spokesperson, but the date may be pushed back. During the closure, the asphalt track will be completely reconstructed. The asphalt will be replaced, and a spongy synthetic surfacing will be installed on top of it, she said.

Little’s team, the Central Park Track Club, uses the track Tuesday evenings, and Little said he practices there about one more time per week. With the park’s closure, he will need to run at the Central Park reservoir, which is less convenient for him and the team’s coach, he said.

Lisa Donlan, another runner, organized opposition to the track’s closure and encouraged runners to attend the C.B. 3 meeting. At Donlan’s request, the board unanimously passed a resolution on June 27 asking Parks to stagger the construction on the project — which also includes renovation of the bleachers, bathrooms and plaza — so the track can remain open as long as possible.

The resolution also requested that the Department of Education open a nearby, newly renovated track at Murry Bergtraum High School, 411 Pearl St., for public use.

Richard Ropiak, chairperson of Community Board 3’s Parks and Recreation Committee, said the community board has contacted Parks administrators and that they have agreed to hold a meeting with concerned members of the community. Ropiak said he hopes the contractors can adjust their schedule to allow the public to continue using the track.

“We’re hopeful to do as best we can for the community,” Ropiak said.

As of Wednesday, the track and field were still expected to close completely on or about July 10, said Smith of Parks.

“It is absolutely essential to start work now,” she said, because contractors cannot resurface the track if there is any chance the temperature will be below 65 degrees.