New Absurd Times: Football booted off natural grass - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Originally published in the September 2009 Juniper Berry Magazine

New Absurd Times: Football booted off natural grass

Falcons coach Tim Cavanaugh points to 9/11 memorial banner honoring Falcons founder Stephen Hoffman.

The Juniper Park Civic Association received the following e-mail from the Queens Falcons Vice President, Tim Cavanaugh, and the statement is typical of the criticism the JPCA has been hearing from some people connected to the Falcons football team. There is an ongoing disagreement between the Queens Falcons and the NYC Parks Department over the use of the baseball fields in Juniper Valley Park. This is one side of the issue -

Apparently, it is now city policy to throw football off grass fields and put them on synthetic turf fields, turf fields that have been linked to cancer causing microbes. Used Tires are used to fill these fields, the same tires that gather petroleum, chemicals, and toxins from the road. The NYC Parks Department has a Canadian tire company's seal of approval saying these fields are safe. But, as you leave these fields after a day of playing on them a poignant odor stays with you. On rainy days after playing on them oil coats your skin and clothes that has peeled my skin off my feet.

The true irony of this story is that less then 200 yards from where this photo was taken hangs the memorial banner of Stephen G. Hoffman, former coach and 9/11 victim. The very rights that my friend died for we are being persecuted for. My tax dollars pay for these fields.

Another irony of this story is that permits have been issued for this field for a youth soccer program, are you saying football is the cause of these fields being destroyed and not soccer?

Actually, if you come by the field on any given evening the field is filled with illegal aliens playing soccer on it.

The Run to Daylight Education Program, which is part of the Queens Falcons Football program, helps inner city at risk young people gain entrance to some of the most prominent schools in the country. Philips Exeter, Andover, Choate Rosemary Hall, Pomfret, Portsmouth Abbey, Loomis Chaffee, Middlesex, Lawrence Academy, Hebron Academy, Kents Hill, Proctor Academy, Holy Cross, St. Francis Prep, Christ the King, Xavier to name a few.

Several former Queens Falcons currently serve in the U.S. Armed forces as well, they fight for the very right we are being denied. Brian Jones, Philips Exeter graduate serving his country as a US Marine. Heading to camp Lejune to learn public affairs. Our boys can serve but we can't play on a grass field? But, NYC Parks Dept. will not let the Queens Falcons play on a grass field where one of the co-founders of this great program play on a grass field where his 9/11 memorial banner hangs.

The Parks Department has given us permits for fields that are miles from are home field Juniper Valley Park. Why? They have allotted a minimum amount of time for a synthetic field at Juniper.

Can someone help us build a safe field for our program? ‒ Falcons Vice President andCoach, Tim Cavanaugh

Parks Department Looks to

Protect Grass

In an effort to get the whole story in this controversy I called Queens Parks Commissioner, Dorothy Lewandowski for clarification and this is what she told me.

Lewandowski explained that there is a borough-wide plan to protect the baseball fields for that sport. She said that because of the past multiple uses of the fields, with football, as well as soccer, they are being damaged beyond control. I questioned the problem of the soccer players who are coming on to the Juniper Valley Park baseball fields to play soccer whether they have a permit or not, and often they have no permit. Ms. Lewandowski said that soccer is a serious problem and they are addressing it but that football was the real culprit when it comes to field damage.

Ms. Lewandowski further explained that the Queens Falcons' home field is now Victory Field and that Parks is providing a container at that field so the team can store their equipment. In addition to Victory Field, the Falcons are permitted to use Brennan Field in Juniper Valley Park and Mafera Park in Ridgewood for practice.

Ms. Lewandowski also said that she has a letter sent to her in July from Queens Falcons' Coach, Neil O'Donnell, and in that letter Mr. O'Donnell expresses his gratitude to Ms. Lewandowski for her cooperation in the controversy. She read to me a small part of that letter. I asked Ms. Lewandowski if I could print the letter in this article and she stated that she would have to get Mr. O'Donnell's permission to reprint the letter. In other words no. Ms. Lewandowski, however, did sum it up with this statement this whole controversy was just a ripple in the sea, of an otherwise very strong relationship Parks has had with the Queens Falcons football organization.

It should be noted that in response to my question to Ms. Lewandowski when I asked if, for example, there is a vacant field in Juniper Valley Park other than Brennan Field, can the Falcons use that field for practice, her response was no because of the reasons outlined above.

To sum it all up and to be clear, according to Queens Parks Commissioner, the Falcons' home field is now Victory Field and they can practice at Brennan Field in Juniper Park and also in Mafera Park in Ridgewood. She implied that everyone is OK with the outcome.

Falcons Will Fly to Court

Subsequent to talking with Ms. Lewandowski, I spoke to Falcons Vice President, Tim Cavanaugh and to their Coach, Neil O'Donnell, and they have an entirely different reaction than has been stated by Dorothy Lewandowski.

They are lividly angry and feelings are raw with the treatment they have received from the Parks Department and Queens Parks Commissioner, Dorothy Lewandowski, in particular. The problem is going to the courts because the Falcons have an injunction against the Parks Department which is being filed this week.

Tim Cavanaugh and Neil O'Donnell stated to me that the Falcons have had permits for the fields at Juniper for over twenty years and while there is the chatter about preserving the fields against the abuse from football, the Parks Department has given out permits to soccer teams to use the Juniper Park baseball fields that Parks is stating need to be preserved. Soccer is a far harsher sport on the grass fields. They further stated that what is obvious is that the Parks Department has made a choice, football is out and soccer is in when it comes to grass field use in our City parks, and Juniper Valley Park in particular. They feel that stating that they, Parks, want to preserve the fields for baseball is a blatant, misleading lie.

Artificial Surface Raises

Health Concerns

Tim Cavanaugh further explained that Brennan Field and Victory Field are turf fields, and the synthetic turf is a product of old rubber tires. The study that concludes that the turf fields are entirely safe was done by the tire recycling industry. On rainy days after playing on the turf, oil coats your skin and clothes and can peel the skin off your feet. How objective could the safety conclusion be if the study is done by the tire recycling industry?

Cavanaugh said that the turf fields are supposed to be maintained every three months with a special machine that levels the field. He doesn't see any evidence of that maintenance happening at Brennan or at Victory Field and there are areas where the rubber is disintegrating and where there are holes.

As a gesture of cooperation with the Parks Department, however, Mr. Cavanaugh did say that the Queens Falcons would be willing to maintain the Juniper Park grass fields with seeding and other field maintenance chores if they were given the permits to use those fields again.

The Falcons feel that they have received shabby treatment from the NYC Parks Department and Queens Commissioner, Dorothy Lewandowski in particular, so that soccer can be the sport of choice to use the grass baseball fields in Juniper Valley Park while they, the Falcons, are being banished to Victory Field as their home field. That is not acceptable to the Queens Falcons football team and they said will sue the Parks Department to make that statement in court.

Mr. Cavanaugh also made the point to state that about a dozen of the Queens Falcons football players have gone on to join the United States Armed Forces and defend our country and its freedoms. It is insulting to them and their effort for our great country that the NYC Parks Department has literally thrown them off their home field in Juniper Park, a field that they have used since 1988.

There you have it, both sides of what literally has become a turf war between football and soccer in Juniper Valley Park. You decide if you think Queens Parks Commissioner is doing the right thing with your precious tax dollars.