The College Point Sports Association fields finally opened on Saturday, in time for the start of Little League baseball season but local Councilman Tony Avella is still not happy.
According to Avella, the event was an official ribbon-cutting of the restored site and he wasn’t invited. According to the Parks Department, it was just a photo opportunity for local newspapers and no politicians were invited.
“What’s going on?” Avella asked. “They should have invited all the sports groups and civic and political leaders.”
The councilman, nevertheless, found out about the 11 a.m. photo-op and angrily confronted Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who was taken by surprise by the outburst. “We are excited to begin a new chapter for the community of College Point and these fields will provide more sports and recreational opportunities for Queens youth,” he said in a prepared statement released by his agency.
In another quote released by the Parks Department, Mayor Bloomberg indicated he was pleased the fields are now open for baseball. “We made it a priority that these fields be open for this season and the Parks Department and the Department of Design and Construction have done just that for all College Point residents and little-leaguers,” he said.
Despite the good wishes by public officials, Avella was annoyed by the way the event was handled.
“The only people who were there were Jerry Castro and two Little League teams and Debbie Markell, from the Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit. The whole thing was very childish and stupid and I got no answers,” Avella said.
He had questions about sports permits and when additional work would be done at the sports complex. According to the Parks Department, work will be completed on the roller hockey rink in June. Permits were issued and Castro, as president of the College Point Little League, is working out the details.
But Avella wants to know why the ceremony was kept so hush-hush. “They should have let everyone know. This is no way to run city government.”
His interest in the College Point Sports Complex has a controversial history. He was president of the College Point Sports Association seven years ago when the city closed it down due to illegal landfill being dumped there for two years.
Although Avella denies any knowledge of the illegal operation, he was at the helm of the organization at the time of the controversy. Some people, including State Senator Frank Padavan, believe he should have known better or had better oversight over the fields while the work was going on.
The city has since taken back the fields and after lengthy delays due to construction problems and removing the tons of illegal landfill, reopened them last Saturday. The city has also filed a lawsuit against the illegal landfill company, Enviro-Fill, which is now defunct, and the sports association to recoup millions of dollars spent to regrade the fields.
Last month, Avella, a Democrat from Whitestone, announced that he was setting up an exploratory committee for a mayoral run in 2005. He said on Monday he has received support from people throughout the city.
No fan of Mayor Bloomberg, Avella most recently has held rallies against his plan to relocate 180 mostly Korean wholesalers at the former Flushing Airport site on 20th Avenue in College Point. The area is already highly congested and the councilman was furious that he wasn’t invited to the announcement by the mayor in February.
Saying last month that he can no longer sit back and ignore the failure of city government to address the needs of its citizens, he added on Monday that he will announce his decision to run for mayor next March.
He also admits that his chances are “slim to none” and that it will be difficult to raise a campaign war chest full of money. Nevertheless, “we need to demonstrate that candidates can run for citywide office without being wealthy or dependent on the financial backing of special interests,” Avella said.