A tense hour-long debate on May 27 between Community Board 8 Parks and Recreation Committee members resulted in the approval to rename Manhattan College’s baseball field at Van Cortlandt Park.
Nearly two decades after Joe Coppo’s untimely death, the community started a petition to name its home field at Van Cortlandt Park after the local baseball legend. So far, there are 267 signatures in support of the renaming effort.
Coppo was captain of the Manhattan College baseball team, inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame and died on September 11 in the World Trade Center.
While Parks Chair Bob Bender introduced a resolution, he was met with opposition and people wanted to table the vote. But in the end, it was pushed through 5-2-2 and goes to the full board on June 9.
“I appreciate your support and thanks for hearing me out,” said Robert Walsh, senior advisor for the president of the college.
Bender explained that he wished Coppo had more of a connection to the community, but since CB 8 has a strong partnership with the school of which Coppo was an important part, the renaming effort is justified.
“I do not want to say ‘no’ to Manhattan College,” Bender said.
Fellow board member Laura Spalter was also in favor.
“I believe Joe Coppo epitomizes the best of Manhattan College,” Spalter said. “In my view, Manhattan College is part of this community.”
The Van Cortlandt Park Alliance chose not to take a position and said it would support the community board’s decision.
2020 would have marked the Jaspers’ return to Van Cortlandt Park, after playing this past six years in Wappinger Falls due to the field’s poor condition. But now with COVID-19, the season has been canceled. The school is the only Division 1 team that plays in a city park.
While some questioned Coppo’s connection to the community, Walsh told the committee members that several former classmates and teammates of Coppo said he enjoyed playing baseball at VCP.
In addition to having the school play at VCP, the goal is to hold summer camps there as well.
“What we can do is create something special in VCP and inspire a generation of youth,” Walsh said. “I think this will form a strong partnership between Manhattan College and VCP and build something beyond the green diamond.”
Board members David Gellman and Deb Travis wanted to delay the vote. They felt Coppo did not meet the criteria to have the field renamed after him.
Gelman noted that Manhattan College is more known than Coppo is in CB 8, so they proposed renaming the field after the school.
“I am really concerned that he was not really involved in the community,” Gellman said.
Meanwhile, board member Robert Fanuzzi noted delaying the vote wouldn’t help anyone. He also would prefer the Parks Department took on this venture.
“I don’t see us having a say one way or another,” he said.