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Councliman Jimmy Vacca asks Parks for 30-days notice on changes to capital projects

Vacca bill would track park projects

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A local elected official has proposed legislation that may lead to greater transparency in the implementation of Parks Department building and repair projects.

Councilman Jimmy Vacca (D–Throggs Neck) has introduced a bill that requires the Parks Department provide 30 days notice to councilmembers who allocate money for projects if changes are made in the original plans.

“Right now there is no obligation on the part of the city to advise the council person if there are changes in contracts that are funded by the member,” said Vacca.

Vacca cited the reconstruction of Pelham Bay Little League’s Naclerio Field as an example of the need for a law like the one he’s proposed. The final result of the project, according to league leaders, was quite different from what was first proposed when Vacca allocated $200,000 in 2008.

“I think the Pelham Bay Little League was the classic example,” he said. “I had allocated the money and the league and I were not advised that changes had been made.”

Had the law been in place, Vacca said that he could have consulted with the league to see if the new plans would be an appropriate use of the money.

“When I allocate money,” the councilman explained, “it is not limitless.”

Legal action also resulted from the project, with the league getting a $9,500 settlement from the contractor’s insurance after a sprinkler system was damaged during the construction. Local attorney Steve Kaufman won the settlement for free.

Changes were made

Pelham Bay Little League president Vinny Prestopino said that originally the money allocated was supposed to fund a complete restoration of the both the outfield and infield, but that only the infield was reconstructed, and the league even had to pay to replace the pitcher’s mound.

“What they originally told us they were going to do and what they did were two different things,” said Prestopino, who said that an $82,000 backstop ate up much of the money that could have gone other repairs.

He would support a law that would have allowed the councilman some greater oversight.

“If there was a law like that it would have been a million times better,” said Prestopino, who added that had the league been given the $200,000 directly, it could have fixed all three fields.

Parks welcomes input

When asked about Vacca’s legislation, a Parks Department spokesman said that the agency actively seeks input from all stakeholders.

“Parks maintains regular communication with community stakeholders throughout the capital process,” said Philip Abramson. “Additional­ly, we are working on a mechanism that will provide additional transparency throughout the capital process. We look forward to sharing this information with the councilmember.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
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