Opinion: Great American Pastime

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

On Saturday morning, a great community is tradition will be renewed. Led by President Seth Coren, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League baseball season kicks off its 62nd year. It will be preceded by the parade of players and their parents starting from First Avenue at 20th Street and finishing at the Con Ed baseball facility at Avenue C and 16th Street.

In the early 1960s I played in our Little League organization. But in those days, we were homeless. We did not have a field to call our own. We played on the West Side of Manhattan and on Randall’s Island in the middle of the East River. But thanks to the partnership with Con Edison, land adjacent to the East River was developed into ball fields and became home to our local teams which have grown to over 60 teams more than 700 youngsters and scores of adult volunteers coaching, umpiring and taking care of the grounds.

Baseball is the Great American Pastime. It connects families and generations to each other. To underscore that point, when World War II began in the dark days of 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote to the baseball commissioner and asked him not to suspend Major League Baseball games while this country fought for the salvation of civilization. Roosevelt believed that baseball was that important to the American spirit.

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Reminder: Little League parade this Saturday

The PSLL girls’ championship team members at Con Ed Field for last year’s parade. (Pictured) Olivia Sheh, Julianna Fabrizio, Sarah Acocelli, Camile Bernard, Dorie Levine, Amanda Haspel and Jordan Hayduk (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

REMINDER: The Peter Stuyvesant Little League will hold its annual parade and opening day ceremony on Saturday, April 14. Players and their families gather at 8:15 a.m. and begin marching at approximately 8:30 a.m., starting from 18th Street and First Avenue to the Con Edison Field located at East 16th Street and Avenue C. A brief ceremony will be held at the Con Edison Field from approximately 9-9:30 a.m.

Challengers make their debut

On Sunday, a division of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League for kids with disabilities played its first game. (Photo courtesy of PSLL)

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this spring, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League debuted a new division for disabled players, The Challengers.

The kids were recruited pretty quickly, with just enough time for them to be able to march in the league’s annual parade on April 1. Then, last Sunday, the newly formed division played its first game on Con Ed Field.

For many of the 25 players, who’ve been placed on two teams, the Angels and the Braves, it was also their first time playing baseball.

Rick Hayduk, Stuyvesant Town’s general manager who helped form the division, said because of the severity of the kids’ disabilities, they wouldn’t have been able to qualify even to play tee-ball (which is how most Little Leaguers start). The players’ conditions include varying degrees of autism, cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome.

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PSLL celebrates big wins and new division

The PSLL girls’ championship team members wear celebratory jackets at Con Ed Field. (Pictured) Olivia Sheh, Julianna Fabrizio, Sarah Acocelli, Camile Bernard, Dorie Levine, Amanda Haspel and Jordan Hayduk (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

By Saturday morning, a downpour that had gone on throughout the night cleared up just in time for one of Stuyvesant Town’s most important annual traditions, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade.

Hundreds of kids, clad in their new, colorful uniforms, marched alongside former Mets player and coach Mookie Wilson from First Avenue to Con Ed Field, where they got a pep talk from Wilson and a ceremony highlighting the league’s recent victories.

Jeff Ourvan, the league’s president, discussed the $16,000 the PSLL just received as a result of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” lawsuit settlement. Ourvan said the funds, which came from unclaimed checks from the settlement, would be spent on batting cages as well as turf repairs.

Ourvan also praised players who last season, he noted, took home some impressive tournament wins.

Of a 13 and 14-year-old girls’ softball team, Ourvan said, “It was the first time in PSLL history we went on to play a state tournament.” The nine and 10-year-old baseball team and the 11 and 12-year-old team also each won a Manhattan championship.

“It shows you the quality of our league is improving,” he added.

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Last of ‘Roberts’ cash will go to TA, PSLL

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this month, it appeared there might be another distribution of checks, albeit small ones, to residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village who’d been represented in the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer lawsuit.

However, that’s no longer a possibility as the money left in that pot is under $33,000, according to tenants’ law firm, Wolf Haldenstein. Had the remaining funds been over $100,000 it would have gotten distributed to tenants, as part of the settlement deal hashed out in 2013. For an amount lower than $100,000, however, the remaining funds are to be split evenly between two nonprofits: the Peter Stuyvesant Little League and the ST-PCV Tenants Association.

Previously, Wolf Haldenstein attorney Michael Liskow told Town & Village it looked like there was going to be over $150,000 left in the pool of damages intended for residents. That money represented checks that were not deposited by a 120-day deadline. But Liskow this week said he later learned the $150,000 figure he got from the claims administrator, which he thought was updated as of the end of January, didn’t reflect withdrawals from the amount during January. He also apologized for providing us with the “stale” figure earlier.

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Peter Stuyvesant Little League to debut division for disabled kids

For Stuy Town General Manager Rick Hayduk, the effort is also a family affair. Daughter Jordan (left) is the divsion’s co-chair and daughter Jamison (center) will be a player. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With baseball season about to begin, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League will be debuting a new division for players with disabilities.

The Challenger Division is open to would-be players of any age up to 18 with any type of physical or intellectual disability, and was the idea of Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk.

One of Hayduk’s three daughters, 11-year-old Jamison, has Down Syndrome, and had participated in a Challenger Ball team where the family lived prior to moving to the community, in South Florida. However, there was no local division — until now.

Jeff Ourvan, president of the PSLL, explained that the reason such divisions exist (as opposed to just letting kids with disabilities play on any other team) is for their own safety.

“Some of the kids, I understand, have some fairly restrictive physical disabilities,” explained Ourvan. “Obviously we can’t have those kids playing against 11-year-olds who throw 50 miles per hour. So it’s mostly from a safety perspective.”

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City proposes reconfiguring 2 playgrounds as part of East Side flood protection plan

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Asser Levy Playground (pictured) and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground will be impacted by the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. (Photo courtesy of Parks Department)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The city has been exploring options to redesign Asser Levy Playground and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground, since both will be affected by the construction of flood protection along the East Side of Manhattan from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street.

Earlier in the month, representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency discussed the proposals at a community meeting held at Washington Irving High School.

Carrie Grassi, the deputy director of planning for the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, mentioned how the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project will run adjacent to both parks and construction will disturb activities there.

However, since the city is only in the concept design stage with the project, Grassi said that decisions for all aspects aren’t necessarily final yet. One such instance is the placement of the floodwall as it approaches the Asser Levy Playground. One configuration has the wall bordering the park along the FDR Drive, turning along East 25th Street and connecting with the floodwall that the VA Hospital is working on.

“But some feel that would be too imposing,” Grassi said.

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Former Yankee Jeff Nelson will join the kids on PSLL opening day

Jeff Nelson (Photo via Wikipedia)

Jeff Nelson (Photo via Wikipedia)

By Sabina Mollot

Following a search for a former Major League Baseball player, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League announced Monday morning that Jeff Nelson, formerly of the Yankees, has been confirmed to join the kids on their opening day activities.

Nelson was the relief pitcher for the Yankees during the 1996-2000 championship seasons. He retired in 2007.

The opening day PSLL parade is scheduled for Saturday, April 18 in front of Hane restaurant at First Avenue and 20th Street at 8 a.m. From there the players will head into Stuyvesant Town, circle Stuyvesant Oval and then conclude the march at Con Ed field on Avenue C and 15th Street for a brief ceremony (around 9 a.m.).

This year, the PSLL had concerns it wouldn’t be able to have a retired pro player as a guest, which has been a tradition of the league, due to many players’ appearance fees going up.

Previous guests have included Dwight “Doc” Gooden, Keith Hernandez and Cecil Fielder.

To keep tradition alive, PSLL hoping pro players will lower appearance fee

Dwight “Doc” Gooden speaks to kids at last year’s Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Dwight “Doc” Gooden speaks to kids at last year’s Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot 

On Saturday, April 18, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League will hold its annual parade from Stuyvesant Town to Con Ed Field, a longstanding community tradition which also usually includes a visit from a well-known former baseball player.

Previous guests of honor to throw the first pitch of the season have included Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez and Cecil Fielder.

However, this year the PSLL may or may not have a pro player since, as one league parent has told T&V, many players’ appearance fees have gone through the roof, starting at twice the fees paid in recent years, plus the cost of flying them in and hotel stays. The parent noted the league has been and would continue to be willing to pay for a player’s time, but is hoping to find one willing to reduce his fee for the kiddos.

The PSLL, a nonprofit organization, has 750 members, many of whom live in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.

Jeff Ourvan, the PSLL’s new president, said he wasn’t too worried yet though as it’s actually not uncommon for plans for a speaker to be finalized at the eleventh hour.

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Pols, tenants weigh in on Silver, Skelos

State Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman say reports of corruption in Albany make people think all politicians are the same. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

State Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman say reports of corruption in Albany make people think all politicians are the same. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Just eight days after the arrest of one of Albany’s famed three men in a room, came the news that another one in the power trio, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, was also being investigated. U.S. Attorney Preet Bhahara, whose investigation into Sheldon Silver led to his stepping down as Assembly speaker on Monday, is looking into Skelos’ ties to real estate and outside income from a law firm, the New York Post reported.

Skelos, of Long Island, has since reportedly laughed off the allegations.

Meanwhile, at the ribbon cutting for the new Asser Levy Playground in Manhattan on Friday morning, Town & Village cornered a couple of local state senators as well as a few community leaders to ask for their thoughts on the latest scandals from the Capitol.

Senate Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman both told Town & Village that it’s a shameful day in Albany any time there’s news of alleged criminal activity.

“Everyone who’s in elected office knows that they’re supposed to be held to a higher standard,” said Krueger. “The vast majority of us believe in good government, and when this happens, people think, ‘A pox on all your heads.’ Who’s going to want to run for office if everybody thinks you’re a criminal?”

When asked if she was just relieved it was a Republican on the hot seat this time, the Democrat senator insisted she wasn’t.

“No. I think any time there’s an elected official in Albany that gets indicted, the general public believes ‘they’re all corrupt and there’s no point in government.’”

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PSLL gets new president

Peter Stuyvesant Little League’s new president has written a book on coaching youth baseball. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Peter Stuyvesant Little League’s new president has written a book on coaching youth baseball. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
The 750 members of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League have a new leader after its president for the past five years, Peter Ramos, recently decided to end his run.

The new president is Jeff Ourvan, a literary agent and nonpracticing attorney who has three sons, two of them who are current league members. Ourvan is also the author of a book called How to Coach Youth Baseball so Every Kid Wins, which was published by Skyhorse in 2012.

This week, Ourvan stopped by T&V’s West 22nd Street office (his own office is just a couple of blocks away) and discussed his goals for the league as well as the significance of Little League to the kids who participate, playing baseball, softball or tee-ball.

“Little League for boys and girls is extraordinary,” said Ourvan. “If you’re eight or nine years old, this is what you live for.”

He added that his oldest son who’s now 15 and had played in Little League, still enjoys baseball and is even hoping to get into college with a sports scholarship.
On getting kids to want to play or just keep playing as they get older, Ourvan said the trick is to get them out of their comfort zones just a little with each practice and game.

“It’s creating an environment where a child can have fun but also challenge themselves,” he said. “Anyone can play.”

He also said parents’ support is crucial. This means not just dropping their kids off at games and practice but also playing catch with them.

Goal-wise, Ourvan said one of his priorities is to get more parents involved in coaching, which, as a 10-year-veteran of the volunteer practice, he is certainly an advocate of.

“It’s amazing to coach your own kid; it’s like a rite of passage in parenthood,” he said. “It’s fun to be on the field again giving support. And coaches have families and we work so we’re flexible.”

Ourvan has been on the board of the PSLL for the past five years, and on his moving up to president, he admits it wasn’t a hotly contested battle.
“Nobody wants the job,” he said. But he was also quick to note that the league is a relatively well-oiled machine with many parents eager to help out whether it’s by being in charge of concessions or handling the league’s insurance. There are also around 200 coaches.

“The league opened my eyes to the community of Manhattan,” said Ourvan, who lives in Murray Hill. “There’s so much of a family community feeling that I don’t think we noticed before we had a family. For parents, (little league) is a social opportunity and it’s fun.”

Another goal for this year is to keep older kids from leaving the league which tends to happen once players hit high school age. At that point, they’ll sometimes prefer to play on travel teams with their schools. However, Ourvan said he hopes they’ll stick around as coaches or umpires.

“A lot of these kids have younger brothers and sisters still in the league,” he said. “So we want to be able to retain some of those kids.”

The third of Ourvan’s goals for the league is to get it more competitive. Two seasons ago, the PSLL won a district title and he’s hoping for a state championship in 2015. He’s confident about player improvement since some of the league members will have an edge they didn’t have before, which is pre-season practice time at the newly tented Playground 11 in Stuyvesant Town. The spacious, heated tent, which has been branded by CWCapital as “The Courts at Stuy Town” opened recently and is currently housing a few winter sports programs.

Before its opening, management had approached the league to see if its members would be interested in a baseball clinic there, and Ourvan said they agreed without hesitation. While there is a fee for participants to cover the cost of pro coaches and some new equipment, the PSLL is not being charged for the space by CW. The clinic began on December 5, with around 160 kids showing up, and it will run through March.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for us,” Ourvan said, explaining that due to the cold winters in New York, it can be difficult for local kids to compete with Little Leaguers in other states like California or Florida who have more time outdoors. “To now have the extra months is going to be a huge help for our league.”

That said, he made sure to add it’s not about winning titles or games, but seeing kids improve and develop confidence. He recalled how last year one of his son’s teams had been struggling all season only to end up coming close to winning a big game.

“They almost made it to the finals and they were crying that they didn’t win,” said Ourvan. “They believed they were going to win. It ultimately was an amazing victory because they did their best and if you do your best you win.”

The 2015 season of Little League begins in April and registration for the Peter Stuyvesant Little League opened on Wednesday. Registration currently costs $175 per player and $150 for additional siblings. After January 10, the cost goes up to $200 per player and $175 for siblings, and can be done online at psll.org.

Winter sports coming to ST Playground 11

A promotional photo shows what the Courts at Stuy Town will look like.

A promotional photo shows what the Courts at Stuy Town will look like.

By Sabina Mollot

Last week, CompassRock announced, via its tenant emailed newsletter, that Playground 11 would soon become home to “The Courts at Stuy Town,” a center for various winter sports programs to be held under a heated tent.

The programs, which have separate fees, are for residents and their guests and include Super Soccer Stars, batting cages with the Peter Stuyvesant Little League, golf and instructional basketball for kids and basketball games for adults. During hours where there’s nothing scheduled, residents can still use the space for ping pong and basketball. There will also be free film screenings and arts & crafts, management said. The Courts are set to open on November 15 and run through March 1 with the hours of 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Currently, registration is only open for the instructional basketball with Dribbl and Super Soccer Stars. Dribbl will be $360 or $450 depending on the session and the soccer program costs between $365 and $400 depending on the session.

Prior to CompassRock’s announcement, the Tenants Association gave neighbors a heads up via email blast that the indoor sports programming were on the way. The TA noted that while it would have appreciated if the owner had consulted with tenants before digging up the the area around the playground to start installing the electrical system, the center could be a positive addition as long as it doesn’t become disruptive to tenants in neighboring buildings.

This week, Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg said that while tenants haven’t really been asking questions about The Courts, the TA still has its own concerns. One is potential disruptive noise from the scheduled activities or the tent’s heating system. Another is making sure that users of the space are screened to make sure it remains for residents and their guests. Steinberg said another concern is security if the roof of the structure is tall enough to block out lighting.

“The TA is keeping its eyes on the progress of Playground 11,” she said.

Council Member Dan Garodnick added that the noise issue “has been raised with management and we will stay on top of them.”

In response, a CWCapital spokesperson that the tent should actually help reduce the noise.

“As far as noise, the playground will be open the same hours and have the same activities as in the summer, spring and fall, and we expect the tent will dampen much of the noise. We will monitor the noise and take additional mitigation steps if it is necessary.” The spokesperson, Brian Moriarty, added, “PCVST is a very active community, and based on the enormous popularity of the ice skating rink, it’s clear that people like to stay active during the winter too. So we’re very excited that people will now be able to enjoy the playground throughout the year, just as they have in the warmer months.”

Meanwhile, a couple of residents in buildings close to the playground, which is on the east side of the Oval, told T&V said they were still concerned about noise.

Jill Pratzon, a resident in a building overlooking the playground, said she and her husband would prefer the playground as it is.

“We value the quiet immensely. It makes the extra 15 minute walk to Avenue C from the L train count for something,” said Pratzon. “Our view is great, too; we can see the Oval across the basketball courts. The view and the tranquility are also amenities that we pay for; if we lose those, my husband asks, do we get an MCR? You know, a Major Capital Refund? Management says on their website that the sound will be minimized by the tent, but they don’t say that it will be eliminated.”

Pratzon also offered an update on Wednesday morning, noting that due to the bleating of a construction vehicle, there was “no need for an alarm.” Work began at around 8 a.m. “This is going to be a tall structure,” she noted.

Another resident, who didn’t want his name published, said his main concern was security and the structure blocking views around the playground. “We have a plethora of carts and construction vehicles and this will create blind spots along the pedestrian paths,” he said. He added that with the time it would take to assemble and then disassemble the structure, “for two months, this is going to be a construction zone.”

Gashouse Gang catches Lightning to win championship

Peter Stuyvesant Little League juniors team The Gashouse Gang (Photo by Susan Crawford)

Peter Stuyvesant Little League juniors team The Gashouse Gang (Photo by Susan Crawford)

Although the team did not recognize why at first, the 2014 Juniors Team was something special from the get-go, according to team manager Tim McCann.
“Once we came up with the name ‘Gashouse Gang’, we somehow knew we were team of destiny,’” said McCann. “We knew we were going to play in the championship game and win.”
After the regular season the GHG was seeded #3 with a record of 6-3-1 in a league comprised of nine teams from the combined leagues from Greenwich Village, Downtown Manhattan, East Harlem and the East Side of Manhattan (PSLL).
All players aged 13-14 were eligible to play and represent their respective leagues and compete for the coveted trophy for the title of best Juniors team in Manhattan.
The Gashouse Gang title run started against the Eagles, seeded #2 and last years title winners from the Greenwich Village League (GVLL). Jackson Rocke was the GHG starting pitcher and faced the difficult task of quieting the Eagles potent offensive lineup. “The Championship had to go through the GVLL league and Jackson was more than up to the task pitching us to an 8-5 win,” said McCann.
Next up was the PSLL’s very own Lightning team who finished with a league leading record of 11-2 record and seeded #1. ‘The good news was a PSLL team was going to the Juniors king of Manhattan; the bad news is it could only be one team, McCann added.
Andrew Mattiello was the GHG starting pitcher and needed to pitch a near perfect game if the GHG was going to win the championship. Mattiello nearly did allowing only two hits as the Gashouse Gang cruised to a 5-2 win in a pressure-packed game in front of friends and family at Bertraum Field located under the Manhattan bridge.
“Were we the best team?” mused McCann as he thought about his team’s achievement, “I guess we were when we had to be but I do believe dusting off the name ‘Gashouse Gang’ certainly played a role in our ability to rise to the occasion.”

Gashouse Gang honors Stuy Town with name

One of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League’s junior teams has chosen its name based on where the majority of its players are from. See story on Page 5. (Photo by Tomoe Mattiello)

One of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League’s junior teams has chosen its name based on where the majority of its players are from. (Photo by Tomoe Mattiello)

Whenever one of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League teams is asked to choose a name the usual inclination is to immediately choose Yankees or Mets before another team has a chance. This year one of the juniors teams wanted something different. With most of the players born and raised in Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town and with their little league years coming to a close, it was decided they wanted a name which would pay homage to their place of origin.

“Keith Kelly actually came up with the name,” stated Gashouse Gang Manager Tim McCann.“Keith is our resident historian and was aware of the properties’ history before these now iconic buildings were built to supply affordable housing for the returning G.I.s of World War Two.”

Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village was long known as the Gas House District as early as 1842. After the first gas tank was constructed, huge gas holding tanks soon followed and unfortunately occasionally leaked, making the area an undesirable place to live. To make matters worse, crime was high and it also just happened to be the home base of the Gashouse Gang, which committed a reported 30 holdups every night on East 20th Street alone around the turn of the century.

“I’m not quite sure if the team was aware of the notoriety of Gashouse Gang and the gang’s history but either way, the team is aptly named,” said McCann.

 

PSLL celebrates title, turf and tips from Doc

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By Sabina Mollot
In what has become one of the community’s most beloved traditions, hundreds of children and their families marched through Stuyvesant Town on Saturday morning for the annual Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade. The event, which kicked off a season of youth baseball, softball and teeball, was celebrated with a ceremony at Con Ed Field following the march that included a surprise visit from retired pro baseball player Dwight “Doc” Gooden.
While at the field, the famous pitcher who played for the Mets and the Yankees as well as the Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, told the young players he understood the importance of little league.
“Because I know that we all start here,” said Gooden. “You’ll develop friendships that will last forever.”
The Tampa native also advised the little leaguers to: “Play hard. Respect the rules. Respect the umpires. Listen to the coaches” and as for their fellow players, “Cheer them up, because one day you’ll need the cheering up.”
Another tip was simply for the players to do their best. “When you guys are at practice, practice hard because how you practice is going to be how you play. Don’t cheat yourself and don’t cheat your teammates.” But most importantly, he concluded, “Have fun and enjoy the game.”
Along with the visit from Doc, the event was also made special for the PSLL due to its getting to celebrate a 2013 District 23 Majors Baseball tournament team — the league’s first title in 57 years. Additionally, this season will also be the league’s first time playing on an AstroTurf field rather than a grass one. The long-awaited conversion to turf, first proposed a decade ago, was sponsored by the field’s owner, Con Ed.
A rep for the utility, Vice President of Environmental Health & Safety Andrea Schmitz, told the players how seeing the field covered in AstroTurf was important to her personally. “It means a lot to me because I’m a resident of Stuyvesant Town,” she said. “So I know how important the field is.”
Other guests who spoke at the field included three local elected officials: Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Council Member Dan Garodnick.
In his brief pep talk, Garodnick told little leaguers if they play hard, it doesn’t matter if they win or lose games. This prompted PSLL President Peter Ramos to jokingly inform Garodnick that his son, Asher, had been traded.
Also included in the ceremony was the singing of “God Bless America” by PSLL member Kiki Kops and the national anthem by members Jamie Kurtzer and Maya Donovan. All the members then took the little league pledge to always do their best, followed by the parents at the field being made to take their own pledge to offer positive encouragement to their kids and respect the decisions of the umpires. The event then concluded with Gooden throwing the ceremonial first pitch of the season, which was caught by PSLL player Ethan Pascale.
The Peter Stuyvesant Little League, established in 1956, today has over 750 members between the ages of five and 16.