2000-06-10 / Editorial/Opinion

Political Games

The only games that New York City wants to see played on Memorial Field in Broad Channel are political games. With the land sale bill expiring on July 25, 2000, the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) has not decided whether they will sell the field or continue leasing the field to the Broad Channel Athletic Club (BCAC). It’s becoming clearer each day that this drags on that the city’s inaction has less to do with bureaucratic red tape and everything to do with political payback.

Could there actually be a political game being played with the future of a town Mecca -- a place where children can run free, release energy, participate in recreational activities, socialize with friends, spend time with family, and just have fun?

The BCAC has done nothing to disprove the fact that they are excellent tenants. For 35 years the group has paid a monthly fee to the city, maintained the property, and has even improved on the property. Ideal tenants -- right?

The picture became clear, in what should be a simple matter, when sources informed The Wave that DCAS’ inaction is coming straight from an order by Borough President Claire Shulman. She has sent the message that the BCAC should not be sold the land or be able to continue the present leasing situation. In a matter that involves kids, sports, and a field, why would Shulman get involved in preventing the community from keeping what has been theirs for years?

It makes sense when the connections come together and some history is revisited. The Knights of Columbus was vying for land adjacent to Memorial Field three years ago when they were denied consent by the city to lease the property after questions arose about the deal. The BCAC’s boisterous opposition to the Knights of Columbus deal left the impression that they were responsible for the Knights of Columbus’ denial.

The connection to Shulman begins with Tom Gebert, a former candidate for city council and a representative of the Knights of Columbus. Once the deal was dead for the Knights, was payback not too far behind? Did Tom Gebert seek Melinda Katz’s support in this issue? Katz, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress, has close ties to Gebert and is presently working as the right-hand woman to Shulman. Did Katz get Shulman involved?

This seems to be the only apparent reason why Shulman would take such an unpopular political position on this issue. Is our borough president actually willing to take away a field from our kids -- destroy their dreams -- as a political favor?

So, where are our locally elected officials on this matter? Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and State Senator Ada Smith are presently drafting legislation to extend the land sale bill to enable the BCAC to have more time to legally deal with the city. Although more time could be helpful, we don’t think it will change Shulman’s mind.

Public Advocate Mark Green got involved this week, requesting DCAS Commissioner William Diamond to make a decision with the site, and Congressman Anthony Weiner in a letter written with Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, dated April 27, 2000, said, "We support the Broad Channel Athletic Club in maintaining use and full control of the football field."

Residents of Broad Channel and the Rockaways must come together for our kids and demand that Shulman stop playing political games with Memorial Field. It requires letter writing, demonstrating, and phone calls. Don’t delay --Borough President Claire Shulman’s office is at Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Boulevard, and she can be reached at 718-286-3000. Let her know that Memorial Field belongs to the kids and not the politicians!

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