The baseball diamond at Tudor Park near 80th Street and Conduit Boulevard has been used for more than just baseball recently.
A testament to the growing West Indian and South Asian populations, in the Tudor Village and Liberty Heights sections of Ozone Park, the diamond found a second use as a place to play cricket.
The sport, popular in Great Britain and many of its 19th century colonies, has some similarities to baseball — most notably, the action of hitting a ball to score runs.
When cricket players were using the baseball diamond for their games — often all-day affairs — the balls would be prevented from being lost by a 40-foot-high fence at the outfield, built decades ago along the backyard property lines of homes on 80th and 81st streets to protect against fly balls and home runs. It served well to protect against hard-hit cricket balls.
The rock-hard leather balls, 9 inches in diameter, do damage when they come in contact with other matter, which is why protective gear is often worn by cricket players.
So it was lucky for the neighbors that the high fence was there. It prevented hit balls from flying into adjacent backyards and into windows.
That is until the Parks Department renovated the park in 2011 and built an actual cricket pitch.
Responding to the sport’s growing popularity among the thriving South Asian and West Indian residents in the community — and concerns that cricket games and baseball games were overlapping — the city decided to build a dedicated cricket pitch in the far outfield.
But to make it fit, they had to change the direction the game is played in.
“Before the renovation, whoever played cricket there played in the ballfield, so they hit the balls in a north-south direction,” explained Frank Dardani, president of the Ozone Tudor Civic Association and chairman of Community Board 10’s Parks Committee. “To be able to play baseball and cricket at the same time, the Parks Department had to orientate the cricket field in an east-west direction.”
That means the cricket balls are no longer being hit toward the 40-foot fence, but a lower one that runs along 80th Street. On the other side of the street are private homes. The resulting problem is numerous cricket balls going over the fence and damaging property.
“They broke windows in my car with the balls,” said one elderly neighbor. “I got balls all over my yard.”
Several neighbors on 80th Street, none of whom wanted to be identified, said the dangerous cricket balls have been a problem since the newly renovated park opened in early 2012. The situation became a safety issue during last Labor Day weekend, at least two residents said, when teams were playing cricket for most of the weekend. It was then that at least two cars had their windows broken.
“What happens if there’s a kid walking by and one of those balls hits him or her?” she asked. “They’d be killed. It’s a tragedy waiting to happen. I don’t understand why they just don’t put up a higher fence.”
Dardani suggested to the Parks Department placing netting over the fence similar to what is seen at golf driving ranges. The agency seems to be warm to the idea, but no movement has commenced as of yet.
“Parks said it would look into it and it was confirmed they would put up netting,” Dardani said, noting the agency has been cooperative in listening to their concerns. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t been done yet, but that’s where we’re at now.”
The Parks Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment by press time.
But neighbors are cynical the department that they blamed for not foreseeing the problem will actually get around to fixing it.
“I’ll be dead before I see any of that built,” said a resident who lives directly across the street. “The way the city moves, we’re never going to see that done. Why didn’t they think of it in the first place?”
His neighbor a few houses down had a blunt reaction to the news the city was considering netting. She simply rolled her eyes.