By Ron Leir
NORTH ARLINGTON –
Saturday’s opening ceremony for the North Arlington Recreation Girls’ Softball season took on a political twist.
Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat, complained that he was snubbed by League President Mike Tetto when Tetto picked Republican Councilman Joseph Bianchi to throw out the honorary first pitch at Allan Park. Bianchi is hoping to unseat Massa in the municipal election in November.
Massa griped that Tetto’s selection process amounted to a “political endorsement” of his opponent. It should be the mayor who gets the honor of addressing the crowd at the home opener, Massa said, “particular when, as mayor, I sign off on resolutions authorizing all the improvements made to the field.”
“And, I supported, along with the other Democrats on the council, giving Mr. Tetto [and other recreation groups] a $2,000 stipend to bolster their program,” Massa said.
Asked about the mayor’s charge, Tetto said he was a registered independent and that the mayor was “upset he didn’t get called up [to speak] because it’s an election year. Last year, the mayor and council didn’t even show up for our opening day.”
Tetto said he picked Bianchi for the honor “because he’s heavily involved with our program, even without having any kids or grandkids playing for us. He returns my calls, he goes down [to Allan Park] to help out and he was in support of lights for the field.”
But Tetto said the Democrats on the governing body reneged on a promise he says was made last year to put in the lights. “We were told the field will be so bright that, ‘you’ll be able to see Allan Park from outer space,’ ’’ he said.
The way things are now, Tetto said, he’s going to be hard-pressed to find sufficient playing and practice time for the 180 girls on the combined rosters of his 18 teams, ranging from the younger kids to high school age.
While Bergen County has provided new fields at Riverside County Park, only Field 1 is available to his girls softball teams and they’ll have to compete for field time with North Arlington Little League, Queen of Peace softball and Queen of Peace baseball.
And, at Allan Park, where the girls’ games are played on weekends, if North Arlington High School is playing there on a weekday and its game runs late, there’s even less time to use the field for practice, Tetto said.
Within a 10-to-15-mile radius, every community has equipped girls softball fields with lights, Tetto said. “We are the only town that doesn’t have lights [for girls]. Our Little League fields have lights. Why only boys?”
Meanwhile, at the request of Councilman Dan Pronti, the Borough Council is debating whether to install lights in the parking lots of Allan Park and Zadroga Field. The borough engineer is preparing a cost estimate.
Pronti, a Republican, said he’s pitching the idea as a crime deterrent, particularly at Zadroga Field where, he said, there are ways for people to enter through wooded areas or openings in the fence and passing cops patrolling Schuyler Ave. have no way to view the field parking lot.
But Democrats Al Granell and Tom Zammatore are skeptical about Pronti’s suggestion. Zammatore said police have reported no criminal activity in those locations since 2011. And, he said, putting in lights could simply encourage more people to congregate there. Pronti, however, said there have been unreported crimes, including two break-ins to the Corsi House at Allan Park.
Granell said a better solution might be to “lock the gate at Allan Park at night to limit access to the parking lot after dark,” but only if it’s warranted for security reasons. Recreation Commission meetings could be held at the senior center next to Borough Hall or the recreation house in front of Allan Park, since both are illuminated, he said.
Zammatore said the borough should “get data from the Police Department that shows where crime is a problem” and then get an estimate for lighting those areas.