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ENCA Open Forum Discusses Proposed Fields Impact on Fest

Community Seeks Solution to Solve One Problem Without Creating Another

The proposal for a multisports field at Theodore Roosevelt Park is impacting the community. It takes away 73 parking spaces that are used for the recreational area. It may impact the future of the Oyster Festival. They are jockeying for the same space in the park – the large parking lot off Larrabee Avenue. Since Rotary took over running the festival, it has located the Food Court in the large TR Park lot. With from 25 to 30 non-profit groups selling food, rows of benches for visitors to sit and eat their purchases, and with a center area for sponsors who fund the infrastructure of the festival that site is important. The town also proposes to renovate Firemen’s Field which will alter the layout of the lot and will impact the Oyster Festival carnival that uses that space. If the festival loses those areas, where will they put them to retain the current fundraising opportunities for local nonprofits?

The need for sports fields in the Oyster Bay-East Norwich area was made evident by Robert Brusca, Esq. who spoke at the Aug. 27 meeting of the East Norwich Civic Association. Among the topics of discussion were Marino Field and the work being done there by the Town of Oyster Bay, and the proposal for fields at Theodore Roosevelt Park and Firemen’s Field which is to be renovated.

During the meeting, Mr. Brusca indicated that the stakeholders in the fields and the Oyster Festival would be meeting on Friday, Aug. 25 with LiRo Engineering who are working on the plans for the town and were going to present their plans for creating the turf field.

A town spokesperson stressed that the current proposal is preliminary. She said the town is waiting to hear from Bob Santos of the OB-EN Athletic Association. He is expected to have letters sent from different groups in the town expressing their opinion of the proposal. At the present time (Monday, Aug. 31), only the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter of support to the town. The purpose of the Friday meeting, the town spokesperson said, was for the stakeholders, including the chamber, sports groups and Oyster Festival people, to go back to their constituencies and discuss the proposal to see if they can support it. That number of people should include the local nonprofits who raise money at the Oyster Festival.

The spokesperson described the proposed field saying it would be elevated at the north end because the ground slopes down to the water. As a result there would be a retaining wall about three-and-a-half feet high at that end. There would be steps and/or a ramp up to the field. There would be at least two entrances into the field, which would be fenced in. The height of the fencing has not been determined. There would be a three-tier bleacher. The first is at ground level with one above and one above that: The total height would be less than the average person’s head.

There would be lights on the field: The baseball field already has lights so it would be in keeping with that facility already in the park. It would be an artificial turf field. [The town has already created one locally, at the Centre Island Beach in Bayville.]

Need for Fields

Mr. Brusca, who was a star basketball player at OBHS and graduated with the Class of 1982 said growing up in this school district, there were many playing fields: the Fox School; the Bermingham School; Schiff’s field; the Oyster Bay High School upper fields; Berry Hill Field; the Vernon field; Roosevelt Memorial Field and the ball field at TR Park. Today, said Mr. Brusca, there are five fields available: Vernon is smaller; the Marino fields are in construction (formerly the Berry Hill Fields); Roosevelt Memorial Field, for school use; the high school is 50 percent smaller and TR Park. At the same time, the number of players has increased over the years as a result of growth of interest. Add to the mix a new sport, lacrosse which was added over the past few years, and it is for both boys and girls. There is now a pee wee football league that gets boys to learn to play the sport earlier; and add to that cheerleading for the girls in conjunction with football. Another element in the sports count is that the seasons are extended. At the ENCA meeting, Michelle Atessa said that her daughter plays softball spring, summer, and fall and trains in the winter.

More Questions Than Answers

An issue that will affect the overall use of the park is that the proposal takes away 73 parking spaces between TR Park and a renovated Firemen’s Field. Gary Drury questioned the loss of the parking spaces and asked if people will use the boaters’ spots. “There’s no answer to that. People do that already. Public Safety will have to enforce the parking,” said Mr. Brusca.

Caroline DuBois of the Save Firemen’s Field group said she had a laundry list of questions as a result of her research into the origin of the field that was for parking spots for Roosevelt Memorial Field, train commuters and towns people. “It says no fees can be charged, but now there are signs that say stickers are required to park along the LIRR track,” she stated.

She said there has never been a master plan for long-range planning, and now that the TR Museum is gone it should be done. Under question for the field, she said, was talk of having a Visitor’s Center there. Will there be enough turnaround room for buses that will bring players to the new field? She said future plans should look at Firemen’s Field as a transportation hub.

She was concerned with the stream that runs through the parking lot; and the drainage problems; and about the houses with artesian wells in the area; will the loss of 73 parking spaces put pressure on the side streets? She suggested that instead of black topping the parking lot they use a permeable material that is more ecologically friendly. She was also concerned that the runoff be filtered before it hits the bay.

Mr. Brusca said the sports seasons are in the fall and spring and not at odds with the high use of the park in the summer.

Fran Leone said she talked to Jim Foote who said the Minicozzi property at the end of Audrey Avenue might be a new site for a TR Museum, adjacent to the LIRR and near the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum. The OBRM indicates the use of Firemen’s Field for their parking, especially since they plan to eliminate parking along the railroad and turning that area into a plaza.

Mel Warren, who had chaired the Oyster Festival Arts & Crafts vendors for the past 15 years, said he was only speaking for himself, and not representing that group, but asked how the community will generate the $250,000 they earn each year from the festival. He asked what would happen to the food court that is positioned there for the festival. It has grown in size from when the festival food court was at the crossroads of Audrey Avenue, Spring Street and Bay Avenue. Then there were 15 not-for-profits, but now there are from 25 to 30 nonprofits there selling food items. They cannot fit back into the downtown area, he said.

Mr. Warren said he made a layout of the parking lot with the playing field going vertically close to the existing field and that would allow the two groups to co-exist. It would displace the tennis courts, but he said space could be found for them on some grassy areas of the park. He said the food vendors had been told they were not allowed to cook on the turf field but that there was a possibility of having a deck put over the field.

Bill Burke added to the conversation saying that while in St. Louis, they barbecued on a turf field without a covering.

Mr. Warren said, “If you break down the Oyster Festival and spread it all over the village it will kill it. You’re killing the goose that laid the golden egg.” The food court also has booths for the corporate sponsors that want to reach the visitors; and it is close to the Arts & Crafts tents. “Where does the carnival go, on Beekman Beach?” he asked.

Isaac Kremer, a Rotarian, said their festival committee is aware of the problems and are discussing them. He complimented Rob Brusca’s leadership in bringing the groups together to talk about the issues involved. “Good things have happened in the last 10 years. The problems are with implementation. We have a possibility of getting high quality playing fields.” He was optimistic in that work is being planned for the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum plaza. He added, “Let’s make sure the Oyster Festival can fit in.”

Gary Drury suggested the cover for the turf field which is done at Hofstra and at CitiField. Mr. Warren said a cover for the field would not work because they drive garbage trucks through the food court at night to clean up the area.

Is a high tech field needed? Lianne Gunther said her sons played soccer on grass for 15 years with no problems. Mr. Brusca said the preference for turf is because games can be played over and over on them, even in rain. Ms. Gunther said, “We never had a problem at Vernon. We never cancelled a game [because of rain].”

Ms. DuBois said her group was skeptical about the need for fields. Is it a problem of scheduling that underlies the issue? It appears that is part of the problem with the use of fields such as school and town fields not “talking” to each other over scheduling, all agreed.

Mr. Warren said to the listeners several times - that he was talking for himself – that the Oyster Festival Committee didn’t want to be negative. He said, “My big mouth got me involved. I was a participant in the Arts & Crafts since 1995, and crafts people complained to me. I said to Robbie Hallock [then festival chair], if you don’t change things the crafters won’t come back. He said, ‘Okay big mouth, you fix it.’ And I did.”

He said the booth fee the artisans pay is for the cost of the tent and electricity needed to light it and the balance goes to the Rotary Community Foundation.

That was when Matt Meng adjourned the meeting because of time.

Civic Associations Ask the Town to Convene TR Park Advisory Committee

The East Norwich Civic Association and the Oyster Bay Civic Association have sent letters to the Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto requesting the Theodore Roosevelt Park Advisory Committee be re-started. President Matt Meng reported to the membership at their Aug. 27 meeting that they had not heard from the town as yet.

A town spokesperson said Councilman Chris Coschignano, who was appointed by the supervisor as the chairman of the TRPAC, plans to revive the committee. He cannot be reached for a comment on the committee’s progress as he is currently on vacation but will return next week.

The East Norwich Civic Association continues to attract new members. At their Aug. 27 meeting, Mel Warren, membership chair, said new people coming in are half new members and half former members signing up again. There are 92 paid-up members, and more coming. President Matthew Meng said, “They must sense something good here. Checks are coming in faster than in years past and traditionally, continue through January. That’s all good.” The open forum style of meeting allows members to express their opinions on issues.

ENCA member Charles Doering, of the original OBCA committee to rehabilitate TR Park sat reading from a copy of the original deed. He said it called for a nine-person advisory committee.

The original concept was that the committee would give advice on any changes to the park and the Theodore Roosevelt Association had the right to refuse changes. Mr. Doering said, “I’ve spoken to Liz and she said, ‘It’s not needed anymore. We are superceding the resolution.’ Norm Parsons, [former TRA president] and Elizabeth Roosevelt, are dictating what happens at the TR Park.”

In a telephone interview Norm Parsons said he and Ms. Roosevelt were interested in improving the park. He said, “We felt the park improvements were not being done and the condition of the park was not as it should be and we met with the town to find out what they wanted to do. As a result they took a lot of stuff out of the park that was being stored there. If you go down to the park you will see the storm fences, piles of sand and dirt have been removed. That is an improvement.

“We asked what their plans were on upgrading the park and they said they would let us know what they would do.

“As to our input on the sports fields, that section of the park was designed and earmarked for sports and our concern with that is that there is a limit on what we can dictate to the town and the kind of sports they feel appropriate to the park. We don’t feel we have jurisdiction on that. But, if it interferes with the park or diminishes the memorial part of it, that will affect us.

“But the concept of sports is fine - subject to what the proposal will be and as far as it does not diminish the purpose of the memorial aspect of the park,” he said.

Work does need to be done on the Memorial stone garden and fountain located in the center of the park. “There is a need there and we feel it should be done and we asked the town to tell us what they were going to be able to do and asked for a timeline to have that work done,” said Mr. Parsons.

“One of the issues was to move those temporary trailers out of the memorial area – and the temporary trailers were not suitable. We asked when they are replaced, what would replace them. That is the sort of question we are asking,” he said.

Mr. Parsons said they feel the town has been responsive and serious about what is done in the park. “And that is serious to us. And they said it would be cleaned up and since they actually did that – that is encouraging,” he said.

As for the museum: At the meeting, Fran Leone said Jim Foote of the Theodore Roosevelt Association told her that the Minicozzi property at the north end of Audrey Avenue is being considered for a TR Museum. Mr. Parsons said, “It was something that was proposed but the status of the museum is that it is on hold and the first priority of the TRA executive committee is to insure our finances – that our endowment is sound. As all nonprofits today, that is critical. Some museums are proposing to close, so the position of the executive committee is ‘yes, we are on hold but we are not abandoning the idea of the museum,’ but not until the economy is better. This is not the time to speak about getting large sums of money from donors.”

At the meeting, Mr. Doering had copies of the original deed from 1942 and from 1969 and 1973 when modifications to the deed were made.

Currently, the TR Park is the subject of a proposal to create a multi-sport field on part of the parking lot near the Larrabee Avenue entrance – in the area where the Oyster Festival currently places its food court with 25 to 30 nonprofits selling food as their primary fundraiser for the year. ENCA member Robert Brusca, Esq. spoke on the preliminary plans for TR Park and the construction work that has begun at Marino Park.

The work at Marino Field includes two baseball diamonds, dug outs, a batting tunnel, a bathroom, concrete paths, trees, storage shed, batting cage and a five to six-tier bleacher. The design work on the parking lot on Park Avenue and Berry Hill Road is under discussion with the Boys & Girls Club of OB-EN. There is a possibility of another parking lot for the field on Hill Drive and Berry Hill Road which it appears neighbors are in favor of to solve traffic safety issues. The ENCA and OBCA put together a flier explaining the plans and gave them out to residents in the area of the Marino Field to get feedback about taking down trees to create the parking lot. Mr. Brusca related that most said it was a net benefit to stop the existing problems. Suggestions included making a gravel lot, using rustic fencing, good drainage, green space buffer on the east and south sides and no lighting. It will offer about 25 spaces. A plaque on the flagpole will commemorate the park to former NYS Senator Ralph Marino who is revered by the community.

What followed was a long discussion on the proposed TR Park fields. (Please see the TR Park article on the front page.)

There was a short discussion of the East Norwich Volunteer Fire Department’s siren call. Mel Warren said the 10 whistles used for a standard fire have been reduced to six. A long whistle denotes an emergency.

An East Norwich resident who lives near the firehouse said the alarm went off at a quarter to six on Thursday. He objected to the need for the fire alarm.

Mr. Meng said the whistle goes off at noon and 6 p.m. daily. Only when it goes to a second alarm is there a need for firefighters to go to the firehouse. The firefighters have electronic beepers but the alarm is to make sure they get the notification.

The ENCA meets each month at the Community Methodist Church in East Norwich, the third Thursday of the month, at 7:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend, and new members are welcome.