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Slowdown in PBLL field could compromise season

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Angry little league organizers say long-awaited upgrades to their muddy Pelham Bay field may not wrap up in time for spring season.

“It’s going to be a miracle if it’s ready,” said Vinnie Prestipino, president of the Pelham Bay Little League, which manages Naclerio Field on Westchester Avenue.

The City’s Department of Parks owns the property, performing low maintenance on three diamond fields, but leases the space and responsibility to the nonprofit PBLL, which relies on funding from little leaguers’ parents.

Moms and dads have already paid the upcoming season’s registration fees, which PBLL spent on equipment and utility bills.

“We want to give 680 kids 20 games apiece,” said Prestipino. “If that field isn’t ready, we’re not going to be able to put all of our games in.”

Prestipino said that while kids can go to nearby Colluci Park, that field is in bad shape too.

But Councilman Jimmy Vacca earmarked $200,000 for upgrades on Naclerio Field in 2008. The money, however, sat in Parks’ coffers for years as bidding for the project dragged. Initial work finally began last July, though work is often seldom, said organizers.

PBLL originally asked Parks for a new dugout, perimeter fence and a smoother blacktop.

But Parks only agreed to fixing the main field, later attaching several add-ons PBLL never wanted. That included a $40,000 backstop on the main field, since the current backstop wasn’t 25 feet away from homeplate.

“I don’t know any field around here that’s 25 feet from home plate,” said Prestipino, adding the extra work severely cut into their budget.

Superstorm Sandy complicated matters, pushing repairs back while creating more damage.

“We still have three gigantic trees that haven’t been taken down,” said Prestipino.

Another hurdle was damage made to the field’s sprinkler system in late fall, which Prestipino blames on crews asking that part of the wiring be cut to make way for heavy equipment.

Trapped water inside the system has forced PBLL to overhaul its water network.

“The Parks Department says that’s your fault,” said Prestipino, who says there’s no money to fix the system. “I’m fighting that.”

“We’ve been strung along here a long time,” said Harry Oehler, a parent volunteer who helps maintain the property.

He intends to file a Freedom of Information Act request, looking into how a simple project became tangled in a web of bureaucracy.

A Parks Department spokesman promised that work will be completed by April 15, but Vacca and others are not buying it.

“It is tough to envision that right now,” said Vacca.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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