By Lara S. Mullarkey
The sun broke through on the morning of Saturday, April 6 just in time to shine on Greenwich Village Little League’s Opening Day. Hundreds of families flooded Pier 40, along with a roster of local politicians including Deborah Glick, Brad Hoylman, Corey Johnson, Brian Kavanagh, Scott Stringer, and Madelyn Wils (president of HRPT). Even Jerry Nadler took a break from his duties as head of the House Judiciary Committee to attend the annual event.
Such a high level of support should come as no surprise. Now in its 35th season, GVLL is one of our most popular local community organizations. With more than 850 players, and over 150 volunteer coaches, managers and safety offices, it is also among the largest little leagues in the country. Offering not only baseball, but t-ball, softball, and a challenger division for children with special needs, GVLL remains one of the most accessible and affordable organized sports options for children in lower Manhattan as well as a cornerstone of the community experience for many local families.
Despite its perennial popularity, GVLL’s future is in serious jeopardy. This year’s Opening Day speeches and ceremonial pitches were punctuated by the chant, “We need our fields!” Already challenged to schedule dozens of weekly games on limited field space, GVLL will soon have to make do with even less. Plans to close down and renovate Pier 40 will displace many games, with few local alternatives to absorb the overflow.
Enter the Gansevoort Peninsula, an open space a half-mile north of Pier 40 that served, until recently, as a garbage truck station. Now cleared and ready for redesign, the space provides a unique opportunity for GVLL at exactly the right moment. Unlike narrower piers along the Westside, the Gansevoort Peninsula is unusually large (five acres) and rectangular, allowing it to accommodate a full-size playing field while also serving other interests. According to GVLL board member Fran McCusker, whose teenage boys played baseball on Pier 40 for many years, “Having full fields nearby is vital to a neighborhood remaining a great place for kids to grow up.”
As a variety of groups promote different ideas for the development of the Gansevoort Peninsula, GVLL is rallying to ensure that at least one full playing field is included in the final design. Though no substitute for the expanse of Pier 40, the field would provide relief, not only to GVLL but also for the popular Downtown United Soccer Club (DUSC) and an array of adult leagues and local school groups that face severe cutbacks once the long-term renovation of Pier 40 begins. With the population of youth in lower Manhattan continuing to grow, the field would also help accommodate larger leagues once Pier 40 is complete. The final line of the flyer handed to GVLL parents on Opening Day states the organization’s stance, “Local politicians promised the new park on the Gansevoort Peninsula would serve the needs of this community, not the tourists of the Highline. We plan to hold them to that promise.”