2012-05-25 / Letters

Pricing Kids Out Of Gateway

Dear Editor,

My name is Anthony Di Carlo and I have three daughters who attend school at Saint Francis de Sales and participate in their CYO sports program.

I am affiliated with the CYO program as the Soccer Director. We have approximately 500 boys and girls from the neighborhood participating on 23 soccer teams from the SFDS CYO program alone. The organization has been utilizing Fort Tilden fields since 1996, give or take a few years.

In the past few years, the volunteer coaches and I have contributed a tremendous amount of time to maintaining the fields. For example, we have:

- purchased all four sets of soccer goals/nets that are utilized at Fort Tilden

- paid for lime and paint which is needed for marking the fields for games or tournaments

- cleaned the fields by picking up trash on the fields and placing in garbage bins

- made sure vehicles abide by parking regulations

- seeded fields when feasible due to the amount of usage they get daily by the program

- purchased our own riding mower to cut the grass (if and when it grows)

In addition to the CYO program, I am part of the Kosmos FC organization, a travel soccer organization that has been growing exponentially in our community. Kosmos FC has a total of 13 girls’ soccer teams here in the Rockaways along with 3 boys’ teams. It has been drawing kids from Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor, Neponsit and Breezy Point as well as five new girls from Brooklyn.

The girls in the organization overlap with the CYO program affiliated with SFDS, Blessed Trinity (St. Thomas More), and St Camillus/ Virgilius – all of whom need the fields at Fort Tilden. Together, volunteers from all of these organizations have worked in a spirit of collegiality to share and care for the fields, all for the sake of the children.

In an attempt to find other fields, we have reached out to Beach Channel High School to try to rent their fields, but due to their athletic program, they have limited to no time slots available for the amount of space we would need as an organization.

We have turned to AVIATOR Sports Complex, the next available and closest location for our needs. With Aviator’s beautiful turf fields, the cost to rent them is high.

We find it unfair to ask families to pay for this expense in poor economic times. Due to the added expense, some children may miss out on the opportunity to grow in a sport that has been and will continue to grow in America.

Four years ago we were paying $1,600 for the Fall and Spring seasons combined.

Two years ago, Gateway National Recreation increased the fee to $3,800 for the spring season and another $3,800 for the fall season, making it $7,600 for a year.

At present the Gateway National Recreation Area’s Budget Committee is looking to adjust the permit fees to $7 - $10 per hour.

For the amount of time that the organizations use the fields, this would amount to between $19,500 and $27,000 yearly!

I can understand the changes that Gateway NRA is going through but to potentially force children and the community from the fields they utilize daily is an atrocity.

The community uses Fort Tilden to help the youth grow as a community, to teach sportsmanship, to respect authority, and as a place to go to stay off the streets.

The fees that our organization has been paying have been doable. However, the proposed new fees could price us out of the fields that we have not only been using but caring for as well. This would leave our children with nowhere to play soccer.

We are all volunteers for the organizations that we are part of and want nothing more than a safe place for our kids to go so that they learn the proper lessons in life.

Please help us in our efforts to have affordable space for our children to exercise, learn sportsmanship, and have fun while learning a sport.

ANTHONY DICARLO

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