American Legion Member Responds To Wave Article
By Howard Schwach
George Barr picked up The Wave last Friday and says that he was immediately angry over a front page story detailing the lawsuit between the Broad Channel American Legion post and the Broad Channel Athletic Club.
Barr, a long-time member of the American Legion whose kids played sports with the BCAC, says that he couldn't believe what he was reading.
"The article was pure hate rhetoric," he told The Wave in an interview on Tuesday. "It's a character assassination and a way of putting public pressure on [the Legion] to give up its rights in this lawsuit."
Barr said that while he is not an officer of the legion post, he felt that he had to respond. He declined providing contact information for the post commander to The Wave.
He said that The Wave article was "one-sided" and that he "wanted to set the record straight."
Barr said that the events that led to the lawsuit against the sports club and the City of New York had its genesis in the law that allowed Broad Channel residents to buy the land under their homes. "[St. Virgilius] held the proper lease to the property that now belongs to the BCAC but those leases were retracted and nobody held them in the early 1990's," he said. "Nobody was being given new leases because everybody was waiting for the law that would allow them to buy their land."
"We had a lease on our property, they had a lease on theirs," he said of the BCAC. "When the fight between the BCAC and the [Brooklyn] Knights of Columbus came up, we stayed out of it. We remained neutral, although some in the BCAC said that we took the part of the K of C. They said that we sided against the children of the community. That was not true."
Barr says that the Legion always expected to be able to buy the land adjacent to the clubhouse. While he says that he never saw any papers that promised the land to the Legion, he says that he did see a "list put out by the city that said that the 30 X 100 strip of land would be sold to the Legion."
When the land was sold to the BCAC, he said, everybody was surprised.
"We had no idea that was happening," he said.
Barr thinks that the BCAC is being vindictive against the American Legion because of a perception that the legion backed the K of C.
"They put up a fence around their parking area and said that we couldn't use it," he said. "We need that parking. They won't even negotiate with us."
He told The Wave that the contention that the legion is somehow fronting for the K of C in another attempt to get the land is wrong.
"They have a new clubhouse in Howard Beach," he said. "We have no affiliation with any religious organization and we don't get involved in politics."
He said that the legion is suing the BCAC as well as the city because they are a party to the agreement that transferred the parcel land.
"In a lawsuit over land, you sue everybody involved," he said.
And, he argued that the BCAC does not have to cut its T-Ball program because of the $10,000 it has paid to a lawyer defending the suit.
"That's their way of adding public pressure," he charged. "They're making a war over this. They charge the parents a fee.
The land is there.
There is no reason for them to cut programs just because of the suit. It's just to make us look worse [in the eyes of the community.]"
The lawsuit was brought in Queens Supreme Court in 2005, arguing that the parcel of land had been wrongfully conveyed to the athletic club and asking that the land be conveyed to the American Legion Post instead.
While nobody connected with the post returned calls from The Wave for the original article, its attorney, Stephen Holihan told The Wave, "Neither the Legion or I care to comment on the suit at this time. We'll let whatever the court decides to stand as our statement."