Traffic jams, light trespassing, an adverse environmental impact and health risks associated with artificial turf were just some of the concerns voiced by village residents on the upgrades during Wednesday night's Town Hall Meeting hosted by Mayor Fran Murray at the .
Kevin McAndrew, a representative for Cameron Engineering — the company who would do the work — explained that the project, which Molloy would pay $6 million for, wouldn't impact the Mill River corridor and would remain within the footprint of the existing fields.
Residents said they were concerned that wildlife in and around the river would be adversely impacted by the creation of synthetic turf fields and the water runoff from the field into the river.
Under the proposal, three of the four fields (Barasch, Lister and Blighe) on the South Side of the village that would be upgraded would have synthetic turf, McAndrew noted, but all four would be equipped with a sub-surface drainage system that would store rainfall and inhibit runoff into Mill River. He added that the drainage component can handle eight inches of rain an hour.
Barasch Field would be renovated into a fenced-in, NCAA baseball stadium with Major League Baseball dimensions, equipped with dugouts, bullpens, batting cages, bleachers, a press box and a continuous Evergreen tree line to screen the field from the streetscape. Molloy would use this field for its baseball season — January to mid-May — and the high school would use it for its home games.
Deputy Mayor Nancy Howard said the schedules of both teams do not conflict with each other. Pette Field would be eliminated under the proposal.
McAndrew explained that the proposed renovation to Blighe Field would eliminate Ketler Field, and a 25-foot high net fence would be installed adjacent to Riverside Drive. The field would also get support field lighting. He explained that the lighting would be "directed and focused" and wouldn't shine light on surrounding homes like the lights at Barasch Field. Blighe would be used for the Babe Ruth Little League division, Howard said.
This took residents by surprise, who were unaware that lights or a fence at Blighe were part of the proposal. Many said they felt a fence around Blighe would "close them out" to parkland they have used with their children for years.
Residents who live near the field said the village must take into account the increased traffic and possible health impact of artificial turf fields. Rodney Place resident Joe Thrapp said there needs to be more studies on the impact this proposal will have on the community before the village signs off on it.
"There are several things that need to be studied and planned," he wrote in an email to Patch. "Traffic studies. Light trespassing issues that will invade hundreds of houses along the Mill River and the misinformation about risks of using rubber tire refuse as a base filler under the artificial grass."
Thrapp pointed to this study on the dangers of artifical turf and how it could impact kids.
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Kevin O'Brien, a Hendrickson Avenue resident, said he feared that artifical turf could increase the chances of kids getting "carpet burn" and it turning into infections. "Is $6 million worth that much?" he asked. O'Brien's reference to $6 million would be the cost Molloy would pay to upgrade the fields.
Leslie Price, a Riverside Avenue resident and president of the RVC Conservancy lauded the project, but questioned if Cameron would consider planting different types of trees rather than just Evergreens to help keep the overall scenic landscape intact. "I'm happy that the village is taking on this project with no burden on the taxpayers," she said.
McAndrew said for every tree they cut down, two more will be planted in its place.
Residents also voiced concerns that with the renovated fields, the village would solicit more leagues to play there, but according to Price, more than 90 leagues already use the current fields.
Murray said there would be less games and traffic because the proposal removes two of the existing fields, and Molloy only gets an average of 40 to 50 people per game.
Vincent Perry, a resident who's lived on Riverside Avenue for 49 years, said the village needs to investigate if there's anything toxic underneath Blighe Field because it used to be a landfill. McAndrew explained that once an environmental assessment is complete, they will file an application with the Department of Environmental Conservation.
"What you're turning this into is an industrial site," Perry said.
Murray added that the proposal is not set in stone, nor is there a signed contract to do the work. The project is still in its preliminary stages, he said.
The other two field upgrades would turn Lister Field into a synthetic turf NCAA regulation field hockey venue that will have multi-purpose markings: the new field can accommodate three youth soccer games at once, or two Little League games, or two tee-ball games or lacrosse.
Further south, the village’s former debris holding site will become a large, natural turf practice field.