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Can’t Play Ball at East River Park? Change to Permit System on the Way

East River Park, East Village, New York City 1Vivienne Gucwa East River Park

During football season, Julian Swearengin’s Downtown Giants have three practices each week at three different parks: Chelsea Waterside Park, the Battery Park ball fields and Pier 40. Games take place at East River Park on Saturdays. Confused parents frequently end up at the wrong location and players complain about the hectic schedule. Just to add insult to injury, Mr. Swearengin sees a solution to the problem most nights from his apartment with a view of East River Park.

“There are many nights when soccer and football fields are empty. On the same night, my kids are wedged into a corner on Pier 40,” said Mr. Swearengin, the founder of the team for kids up to 15 as well as a former coach. “There’s certainly an overall frustration that there’s no consistency with the permits.”

But soon, the system that maddens Mr. Swearengin and many others will likely be reformed. For the first time since 1999, the Parks Department has proposed changes to its permit system, raising hopes that the vise-like grip many leagues have over coveted ball fields may be loosened.

If the laws are approved, youth leagues applying for new permits will be given priority over all other applicants. The Parks Department will also have the right to reduce the hours of field time for adult leagues that dominate a particular park.

The proposals are in part a response to complaints from an assortment of league administrators at meetings around the city. In Community Board 3, around 20 league operators have bemoaned a permit system that they described as obscure and ripe for abuse. Read more…