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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…

At 1st and 1st, A Distinctly Local Sport

Handball washed up on the shores of New York about 150 years ago in the boats of Irish immigrants. It has since exploded in the city, as players of all backgrounds have adopted the sport as their own. When the weather breaks, tens of thousands flood the 2,500-plus handball courts in the city to take part in this fun, local game.

Players from all over the city convene in the East Village at the East First Street and First Avenue courts, citing the fierce competition, ethnic diversity, convenient location as reasons to travel to the courts. The courts are a preferred place to get in shape, improve your skills and even win a few bucks on the side.

NYU Journalism’s Greg Howard reports.

Rugby’s Six Nations Comes to Town

Rugby - fans 2Ian DuncanMembers of the Village Lions take refreshment.

Just in case it has escaped your attention, we are deep into rugby’s Six Nations tournament, an annual contest fought out by England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. No fancy ads, no halftime shows, just 30 burly, unhelmeted Europeans butting heads every weekend until March 19.

Even though the sport’s popularity with Americans has grown steadily in the last few years, for me – an Englishman new to the neighborhood – finding somewhere to watch the games took some sleuthing. The time difference with Europe, where the games take place at a more hangover-friendly hour in the afternoon, only makes things more difficult.

Luckily, on Google, I turned up Bret Costain, president of the Village Lions rugby club, and found that I wouldn’t have to go far. His friend and clubmate, Peter Cavanaugh, shows the games in full-HD, of course, on a screen above the smooth, pale wood bar at Dorian Gray, a saloon on East Fourth Street between Avenues A and B, which he opened on New Year’s Eve.

On Saturday, at the ungodly hour of 9:30 a.m., the earliest I’ve been up on a weekend since coming to New York, I walked through deserted East Village streets to join members of the club and Mr. Cavanaugh as Wales routed Scotland 24-6 in its first victory after eight straight losses. Read more…