Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Randall's Island $ 120 Million Ballfield's Go Largely Unused - Private Sports Camp Scraped

Built at enormous taxpayer expense, as expected the fields go largely unused during the Summer when the public would normally be expected to use them the most. Critics of the Randall's Island Sports Field development plan have long pointed out the lack community based planning and consultation before investing these funds. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.


On April 27th, in a subject line, IMG Academies - Not Moving Forward this Summer, Randall's Island Sports Foundation head Aimee Boden sent an email out informing people that a pay-to-play private sports camp had been cancelled.

" I am sorry to announce that IMG Academies recently informed us that they have decide not to hold a summer sports camps ( IMG Academies) in New York this summer. It is our understanding that it was a business decision based on their low enrollment numbers and finances. "

The deal called for Florida-based IMG Academies to operate a private sports camp on Randall's Island after donating $200, 000 to the Randall's Island Sports Foundation. The camp was to be given exclusive access during the day to approximately twelve fields during the Summer for six weeks. Costing between $ 495 - $ 895 per week per child, IMG was to offer soccer, lacrosse, football and baseball. They projected a capacity of hosting 100 children per sport per week. But plans fell through in April, with IMG citing low enrollment.

In a January 13th, 2011 letter to Melissa Mark- Viverito Chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe cited the low traffic to justify plans for a private sports camp.

"Fields on Randall's Island have gone largely unused during weekday daytime hours in July and August, and thus availability should not be an issue," he wrote.

The Parks Commissioner agreed to allow IMG to bypass getting a concession agreement for the "pilot program."

"With regard to how the arrangement shall work, there will be no concession agreement. Just like any other park user, IMG will apply to Parks for field permits."

The Parks Commissioner went to pains to avoid the appearance of a pay-to-play scheme.

"With regard to IMG donating to RISF, while we should all hope and expect that IMG will support the community and RISF by making a generous contribution toward park maintenance, there is no agreement that obligates them to make such a donation," the Commissioner wrote.

"That is not accurate," said a city source familiar with the agreement. "The deal was always contingent upon them (RISF) getting a "donation." – Geoffrey Croft

The City installed the largest concentration of artificial turf fields in the country in order to accommodate the private school pay-to-play scheme. (The deal was struck down by two judges) Heat and odor are just two reasons sited for the lack of use, poor planning to accommodate community needs, and a lack of access to the island, are among the others.

If you build it, they will come - but not to Randalls Island.

Dozens of new ballfields in the sprawling park beneath the RFK-Triborough Bridge went unused last summer by the kids who need them most, the city parks boss admits, according to the New York Daily News.

And with school almost out for summer, advocates are complaining the $120 million revamp of Randalls Island Park in early 2010 created a playground for the rich and took crucial dollars from neighborhood ballfields.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe cited the low traffic earlier this year to justify plans for a private sports camp.

"Fields on Randalls Island have gone largely unused during weekday daytime hours in July and August, and thus availability should not be an issue," he wrote City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito in January.

The deal called for Florida-based IMG Academies to operate the camp on Randalls Island after donating $200,000 to the Randalls Island Sports Foundation. But plans for the $895-a-week camp fell through in April, with IMG citing low enrollment.

Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem/Bronx) slammed the pricey park rehab, claiming thousands of trees were cut down to make way for the artificial turf fields.

"Why would you build so many fields and then have a problem in terms of utilization?" she asked. "It was shortsighted and now we're paying the price."

"From day one, we were concerned there was no need to build so many" new fields, said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates. "Now that has come to fruition. The result is the fields are empty."

The park boasts fancy golf and tennis centers, but no basketball courts, he added.

During the rehab, the city took heat for a $2.2 million-per-year pay-to-play scheme involving Manhattan private schools. It was struck down in court after East Harlem and Bronx community groups sued.

"The fields were built mostly to accommodate the private schools," Croft said. And Marina Ortiz, of East Harlem Preservation, called the park "a private playground ... designed to bring in revenue."

There's a move afoot now to try and spread the word about what's in the park. Randalls Island fields go unused partly because they are isolated and more people need to be made aware of the space, said Frances Masrota of Manhattan Community Board 11.

Access Denied. 10-year-old children don't normally apply for permits, nor should they be required to. Ballfields used for pick-up play are the most utilized by the public yet the policy on Randall's Island prohibits such uses.

Read More:

New York Daily News - June 14, 2011 - By Daniel Beekman


  1. Also they keep the bridge to East Harlem closed for "renovations".
    No basketball courts says it all. Contrats with the golf range and the provate tennis club with lexus' and mercedes' in front everyday and costs thousands fo dollars to join.

  2. Two New York's: One rich and one poor. The taking of public land for private profit and exclusive use. And we wonder why our children are unhealthy and why so few New Yorkers are playing college and professional sports.


  3. Now Benepe wants to do the same thing at Red Hook Park!