Hardy Plumbing
April 12, 2006

Latinos Lobby For Field Use

They are a hardworking part of the community and deserve a place to

recreate. That's what local attorney Richard Whalen said in support of a request by the East Hampton Soccer Association for use of a town field for soccer matches.

Sandra Dunn of the Organización Latino Americana spoke on behalf of the group during the public portion of the town board's session last Friday morning. She explained that the league is seeking the use of one of the fields at the Stephen Hands Path recreational space for a soccer season that runs, with an approximately two week midsummer break, through November. According to Association president Luis Yanez, the 16 teams in the league would like to play on Saturday evenings from 4 to 6:30 and all day Sunday.

Dunn reminded that last year the town did allow the Association use of the space. This year, however, when EHSA applied for the field use, members were told children's leagues already booked the space. She emphasized that the members of the league are predominantly Latino immigrants and work six days a week. "Sunday is the only time they can play," she said. "All live or work in East Hampton Town." While she "absolutely" supports the right of kids to use the fields, they do have access to school properties as well. It is only fair to allocate one field at Stephen Hands for children and one for adults, she said.

Supervisor Bill McGintee didn't seem so sure. He reminded that there is a finite amount of athletic fields town wide, and in his mind "the children's programs come first." He doubted whether town officials could approve exclusive use of one field to one organization. There are many user groups that want dibs on playing space.

This week, he and Councilman Pete Hammerle plan to meet with Robert Rogers, the new head of the Town Parks Department, to review requests for playing grounds and determine how to apportion them.

The town also needs to ensure fields aren't overused, Hammerle enjoined. There have been complaints, the supervisor said, that when fields are closed for maintenance, people use them anyway. Part of the discussion with park officials this week may include deciding whether it's time to staff some facilities with attendants. Additionally, the town may decide to issue town ID cards for park users. Offering his support, Whalen said, "Providing fields for these people to be able to play their sport is a social need in the town and we hope you'll be able to accommodate them."

In other sports-related news, Martin Drew appeared before the board reiterating his desire for a BMX bicycle track in the town. The cap at the Springs Fireplace landfill may be a future site for town recreational activities. Hammerle said the idea of putting a track there is "still on the table."

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