The council was voting on an agreement with Maser Consulting of Mount Arlington for professional engineering services in connection with improvements to the Pony League field for an amount not to exceed $13,500.
The field lighting is needed because the reconstruction on the Bayonne Bridge has forced the closing of two fields previously used, including a field reconstructed with funds from Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise about eight years ago.
The loss of the fields combined with the increase in sports programs has created a nightmare of scheduling that requires city officials to expand use of the field.
The recreation department is going to allow two games per evening which requires the use of lights since the second game will likely extend until after sundown.
While this would benefit the sports programs, some neighbors of the field say it will affect the quality of life, noting that the area has already been inundated with problems, from natural disasters to national construction snafus.
During Hurricane Sandy many of the residents of the area had to be rescued due to flood waters that exceed six feet.
Firefighters had to wade through the water from higher ground to carry out residents of First Street.
Residents claim the area has suffered through Hurricane Sandy, construction of the Spectra gas pipeline, negative impacts of the Bayonne Bridge Road Raising project, and traffic that speeds down First Street with little regard for pedestrians and children who walk to and from the park.
Elaine Magenheimer, a longtime resident of West First Street, has been a critic of the Pony League Field, claiming that balls that fly over the fence have damaged homes and cars, and continue to pose a danger to the public.
A line of houses sits on the north side of First Street just beyond the outfield fence. John Magenheimer, her husband, said the use of aluminum bats causes the balls to fly over the fence had a high rate of speed, often damaging windshields and houses.
He said his garage door looks as if it has the mumps.
The couple has petitioned the city for years to turn the field around so that the batters would be facing the Kill Van Kull instead.
City officials, however, said much has been done to prevent balls from flying over the fence, such as building a higher fence with a net to catch the balls. They have even considered installing a higher net that would be raised during games. Officials also said that the Little League, which uses that field most, no longer uses aluminum bats, but a modified bat that does not have the same impact on balls.
Officials said that turning the field around would be costly, and may not even be possible. But if possible, this would create bigger problems because the bulk of those who come to games: players, parents, and others who view the game usually congregate near home plate, which would increase the noise nearer the houses not to mention put people nearer the street.
Currently the bleachers and dugouts are far away from the houses.
John Magenheimer questioned whether there were other fields in the city that could be used, including those that were proposed to be constructed on the former Military Ocean Terminal.
City officials, however, said fields throughout the city are being used to capacity and that part of the reason for using the Pony League field was to keep Little League programs close to each other. Some parents have several kids in different levels of competition, and could not drop one off and still get the other to the games on time if these were scheduled at fields that were far apart. Some of the older kids have to make their way to the games on their own, and scheduling games in remote fields might pose a problem for them.
The fields proposed for MOTBY were part of a redevelopment plan that has since been abandoned.
Business Administrator Steve Gallo said that the plans for fields there were part of a previous administration’s concept, pointing out that there have been a number of unrealistic proposals made for development of MOTBY.
Pressure for use of the fields is also coming from other emerging sports programs, but even if a field is open, the city can’t overuse it or it will degrade.
Elaine Magenheimer said the new lighting disturbs people who live in the neighborhood, and her husband pointed out that Gorman Field at the corner of First Street has lights that often remain illuminated late into the evening.
Council President Terrance Ruane said the lights should be turned off after the games are over and that he will direct the parks department to make certain this happens.
“We will have a meeting with the residents about their concerns,” Gallo said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.