Community Board 7’s Parks Committee voted unanimously on Monday to approve a proposal for a new Gaelic football field at Frank Golden Park.
The proposal had been controversial due to a license agreement between the city’s Parks Department and the Shannon Gaels Gaelic Athletic Association, which would be responsible for the park and organize Gaelic football activities there. The agreement made College Point residents nervous that the public would have little access to the park after the field was built.
College Point activist James Cervino, who is a member of the Parks Committee and has been vocal about concerns with the proposal, voted in support of the field. He and his wife, Kathryn, are still concerned regarding the amount of time that Shannon Gaels will control the park versus when the public has access.
According to the lease, Shannon Gaels must provide at least 10 hours per weekend for other groups to use the park—such as other organized sports that would have to apply for a permit for the time—in addition to one full weekday evening per week and one two-hour afternoon session per week for school athletic programs. According to the Cervinos’ calculations, the breakdown would allow for public access 12 percent of the time, compared to Shannon Gaels’ 86 percent.
But James said that his vote was swayed by an appreciation for Shannon Gaels’ mission to bring Gaelic football to the community, and a belief that the community will be able to work with the organization.
“They’re nice people and I’m hoping that they’re going to work with the community to balance out the ratio,” James said.
According to representatives from Shannon Gaels at the meeting, the organization is actively reaching out to the community to get locals involved and its members are part of the community.
Additionally, James said, Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, who was also present at the meeting, eased some concerns of public access by explaining that the gates to the park wouldn’t be locked when not in use, as was originally feared.
“When they said the gate’s not going to be locked, and that regular people can walk through it and sit on the grass and stare at the sky, I’m OK with that,” he said.
Still, given that the project was funded through taxpayer money, the Cervinos question whether such a deal, with restrictions to free public access, is appropriate.
“So, what we are getting is a beautiful improvement for a public park that is evolving into a predominantly privatized space that has been designed for one sport,” Kathryn Cervino said in an email.
The proposal still has to come up for a vote with the full community board.