By Joan Gaylord
As the new Mount Pleasant Town Board settles in, near the top of its list will be resolve the controversy stemming from a proposal to install lights at Pat Henry Field in Valhalla.
The issue has divided residents who live near the South Kensico Avenue facility and has become a recurring topic at board meetings for much of the past year.
Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi said last Friday that he expects a deciding vote to be taken this month.
Kensico Little League has proposed the project, which they say will allow the league to host evening games and provide the young players with what they have described as the “thrilling” experience of playing under the lights. South Kensico Avenue residents, however, have consistently spoken out against the proposal, citing safety and quality-of-life concerns.
In a letter sent to the Town Board last week, Kensico Little League representatives stated that it has done its “best to be good neighbors with the residents of South Kensico Avenue.” They called the situation “disheartening” and the residents’ actions “disgraceful” and their arguments “propaganda.”
The league cited its 67-year history of working with the town to provide recreation for generations of children and characterize the neighbors’ actions as “hateful intolerance.”
League representatives said they consider Pat Henry Field to be the league’s home field and has assured the board that the league would cover all costs associated with the installation of the lights. Situated between the residential South Kensico Avenue on one side and the railroad tracks and Bronx River Parkway on the other, the park is owned by Westchester County and leased to the Town of Mount Pleasant.
In what former councilman Nick DiPaolo once described as “a handshake agreement,” the field is reserved for use by the Little League.
Last October, South Kensico Avenue resident Elizabeth Kantor spoke on behalf of the neighbors and presented the detailed results of a study as well as a survey conducted among the residents. She said their primary concerns include the potential danger to pedestrians as a result of the anticipated traffic increase during evening hours. South Kensico Avenue does not have sidewalks or streetlights.
Furthermore, Kantor said that in four of the seven places measured, the two-lane street is less than 20 feet wide.
The neighbors also pointed to the infringement upon their quality of life. That would likely be caused by the lights and the added noise as a result of the increased use of the field.
In the weeks and months since the initial presentation, South Kensico Avenue residents have spoken during nearly every public comment period at board meetings and have continued to challenge the proposal. They have shared blueprints for the field that show plans for additional trees to be planted. However, those plans have not been fulfilled, they said.
At the Dec. 10 meeting, they challenged the presence of a truck as well as three shipping containers parked at the field. When Fulgenzi said he was unaware of the containers, Mark Stefanov held up copies of two letters he had written to the board last June asking them to investigate the situation.
In the ensuing weeks, Fulgenzi said he visited the field and called for the truck to be removed but said the containers could stay as they were necessary to store the league’s equipment.
Then on Dec. 17, South Kensico Avenue resident Michele Stefanov was one of several neighbors who reminded the board that the Little League had proposed the installation of lights in 2011, but town officials had denied the request. She asked what had changed since that initial decision.
Fulgenzi said last week he appreciated the inconvenience the lights would cause for the people on the street. However, the board must also take into consideration the advantages an enhanced facility would bring.
“I have over 400 families loving the recreation for their kids,” Fulgenzi said. He suggested the first season the residents would find it to be an imposition. “After that, they won’t notice.”