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Taking Away the Field of Dreams

For 22 years the Queens Falcons Youth Football League has played and practiced in Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village. For thousands of children between 7 and 16, this was their first experience with team sports. Some went on to play for high school and college teams. For the kids and their parents it was an unforgettable experience.

That may soon come to an end, thanks to a poorly thought-out decision by Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. She wants the league to play in some other parks miles away. She claims football is bad for the grass and has decided to reserve the fields in Juniper Valley Park for baseball and soccer.

With all due respect to the value of grass, kids come first. The Falcons have played at Juniper Valley Park for two decades and every year the grass grew back. We question how the commissioner arrived at her decision. Did she realize forcing the move to other parks could kill the league that is so valued by the community it serves? Does she think the soccer and baseball teams that can play in Juniper Park do not hurt the grass?

The league is taking the city to court and we hope they win. But we question their argument that the new fields selected by Lewandowski, which use artificial turf made from recycled tires that could contain toxins, are harmful to the health of the players.

We suggest they take their battle to city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and the mayor, who happens to be running for re-election. Surely Michael Bloomberg will understand it is no small thing to pull the rug out from under more than 225 kids and their parents and coaches. Surely he will understand if the league has been playing in this park for 20 years, they should not be kicked out easily.

Tim Cavanaugh, a longtime Falcons coach, kicked the ball squarely through the uprights when he told the press, “Parks are made for kids. So what if you’ve got some dead grass on a field. What they’re doing is totally wrong. Parks are not trophies.”

Before a season is lost, Benepe should intervene. He understands the value of team sports and hopefully he will see how unreasonable and unfair this decision is.

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