Oval plans still up in the air

KEARNY – Twice around the Gunnell Oval.

That’s where the spinning went last Wednesday night (May 17) as members of the Kearny governing body and about a dozen interested residents reviewed the pros and cons of two proposed makeovers for the Schuyler Ave. athletic complex.

The final choice will be up to the mayor and Town Council but that body has yet to announce when it plans to vote on a conceptual design that will then be put out to prospective bidders.

And it will do so without a formal recommendation from the Kearny Recreation Commission, according to its chairwoman Lyla DeCastro Lawdanski.

When called upon by the municipal body for “suggestions,” the commission has done so, DeCastro Lawdanski said, “but it’s on the mayor and council to decide.”

Among those attending last Wednesday’s two-hour meeting was Ralph Cattafi, the town’s director of parks and recreation, but no one from the governing body asked which plan he preferred.

Michael Neglia, the town’s consulting engineer, outlined both plans whose common element is that both propose to replace the existing grass for baseball/softball and soccer with artificial turf.

After that, however, it gets a little complicated in terms of how the reconfigured space would be laid out and whether soccer or baseball makes out better based on the use of temporary fencing to create shared space or whether permanent fencing is a better alternative.

“Temporary fencing is [a strategy] used all over the country,” Neglia said. Generally, he said, there are two types: “lightweight, PVC fencing that is easier and faster to put up but it can blow down in the middle of your game,” and “SportaFence,” a heavier, “galvanized chain-link fence like a train car on wheels that you can tie to a John Deere tractor” to roll and off the field. The manufacturer says it takes 45 minutes to an hour to set it up but Neglia cautioned it can take longer.

Some Town Council members wondered who would be responsible for assembling the portable fencing and whether it would trigger a lot of overtime.

Councilman Michael Landy, who serves as a town Rec coach, felt that the use of such fencing was essential to optimize the use of facing or overlapping fields.

“A Little League umpire won’t allow you to play [opposite another field] without a fence,” he said.

Both plans envision multi-purpose fields, with chalk lines to be laid out in such a way that they overlap with sections of baseball fields to allow for what Neglia and coaches hope will be optimum use of the playing areas for all concerned.

Nonetheless, some of those configurations can lead to at least one instance of what Neglia termed as an “oddly-dimensioned” Pony League field with a very short right field porch.

Neglia said both plans call for illuminating a walking path encircling the Oval along with playing fields but E. Midland Ave. resident Joe Toth submitted a petition signed by him and his neighbors opposing lighting which, he said, would disrupt their sleeping.

Mayor Alberto Santos said that the residents’ objections would be taken into consideration.

As town officials debate the merits and/or demerits of each plan, Santos said the town would be exploring the possibility of converting Harvey Field, another municipal Rec site off Schuyler Ave., for exclusively soccer play rather than sharing it for baseball.




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