Nightmare ‘Field of Dreams’

Pelham Bay Little League’s is playing some hardball.

Organizers are suing the contractors for nearly $10,000, claiming workers ruptured the baseball field’s internal sprinkler system during it’s renovation phase.

“We had to spend $10,000 of our own money to fix something that somebody else broke,” said Vinny Prestopino, head of PBLL, shouldering the burden to bring Naclerio Field back to normal.

The group’s been a staple in the Pelham Bay community in the 1950s, garnering a roster of 52 teams, with kids ages 4 to 17. The season is still in full swing after being delayed three weeks.

“We should’ve been finished already,” said Prestopino, arguing crews from UA Construction, a Brooklyn-based construction firm hired by the city Department of Parks and Recreation, broke the system’s sprinkler heads despite grounds keepers planting orange flags.

“They came with massive trucks and just boom!” said Will Fesco, PBLL’s vice president. “They did not acknowledge the sprinkler heads.”

Much to some protest, PBLL paid to have the system repaired, replacing sprinkler heads and some piping.

“It was all three fields die or we get the sprinkler fixed,” said Prestopino.

The board asked attorney Steve Kaufman to take the case, who agreed to represent them pro-bono.

“What turned out to be a dream is now a curse,” said Kaufman, whose three children participate in PBLL.

Capital Project

The league received a $200,000 capital grant from Councilman Jimmy Vacca in 2008, leaving Parks to find a contractor.

But the project sat in limbo for years until Parks found UA Construction, who began work in late October of last year.

“It’s one thing to prolong much-needed upgrades at the Pelham Bay Little League,” said Councilman Vacca. “But when the work is not done properly then we have a serious problem.”

The suit is just another chapter in a long saga between PBLL and Parks, who have been at odds since the rehab project began.

“None of our requests were honored,” said Harry Oehler, an active volunteer.

He personally filed a request through the Freedom of Information Act, requesting a cost breakdown.

He found the total cost for a backstop they never requested to be $82,000, cutting into their renovation budget.

The new backstop itself has been problematic, since two gaps are now exposed by the overhang, forcing flyballs out of the park.

“That’s why we lose all our baseballs,” said Fesco, forcing PBLL to spend more money for baseballs. “We spent five times as much in baseballs.”

Flyballs have already broken two windows. Some have settled atop the roof of the nearby El Jam lumber yard.

“We never spent this much on baseballs,” said Prestopino.

A UA Construction rep maintains their work has consistently received an above average rating by Parks since opening in 2000..

“I’ll be happy if we can get the $10,000 back,” said Prestopino. “It’s like if someone comes to your house, breaks something, and feels they’re not responsible.”

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

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