Glen Cove residents involved in the city’s Little League, those on Facebook and Herald Gazette readers are probably well acquainted with Michael Cervini’s crusade to refurbish the three batting cages at the John Maccarone Memorial Stadium, also known as City Stadium.
The batting cages need new netting and new artificial turf, according to Cervini — a 25-year resident of the city, and a coach and sponsor of the league — and pose a safety risk to children who would use them. He also contends that if they were in better condition, they would be used more frequently.
Cervini has made his point persistently at City Council meetings, in emails to league members, on the Glen Cove Neighbors Facebook page and, most recently, in an advertisement in the Herald Gazette’s Aug. 16-22 issue.
The ad bears the simple headline, “Why?” by which Cervini means, why have his complaints — which he began voicing about two years ago — “fallen on deaf ears?”
The ears he was referring to belong to Darcy Belyea, who runs the city’s Parks and Recreation department. She said she feels attacked by Cervini’s campaign, during which he has described her as an obstructionist, and as unwilling to listen. Those critiques are relatively kind compared with the comments that appear on social media beneath Cervini’s posts, which often contain harsh words accompanied by calls for Belyea to be replaced.
“There are no safety issues,” she said of the batting cages. “It’s been used without injury for 15 years.”
“Honestly,” she told the Herald Gazette, “it’s personal.” Belyea has been the recipient of several recent public scoldings, including for her department’s handling of a countywide lifeguard shortage and the renovation of the Morgan Park bathhouse, which the city will have to restart because, officials allege, the quality of the contractor’s work was shoddy. These have all drawn similarly harsh critiques of Belyea on social media, which she sees, but makes a point of not getting involved in.
Cervini’s plan, as he has described it, is to enlist local volunteers, who have said they would donate their time and energy — and with some, their construction expertise and equipment — to help renovate the batting cages. He has asked Belyea “to allow me to take over this project and organize our great coaches and residents.”
After speaking with contractors about obtaining raw materials, Cervini estimated that the project would cost around $10,000. That would cover the materials, he said, and most of the labor and equipment, and volunteers and donations could cover the rest. He made a $4,000 donation to Belyea’s department in an effort to help the city shoulder the financial burden.
“He doesn’t know a lot about facilities management,” Belyea said.
Cervini had given Belyea a $6,000 quote from a contractor for the materials to re-turf the cages. Belyea said that when she checked with the contractor, she was told that the artificial turf, plus labor for installation and other expenses, would cost about $27,750. She added that while her department had overseen volunteer efforts before, re-turfing the cages would be more involved. “The existing surface would have to be prepared and re-graded,” she said. “Otherwise, you’d have drainage problems.”
Terry Dailey, the city’s parks foreman, acknowledged that “any upgrades to city facilities would be a plus,” but added, “There’s a lot more work that goes into it than you’d think … We would want it done right, and we would want it done safe.”
In an email to Belyea in response to Cervini’s ad, Tom Hopke, who has four decades of consulting experience in the design and engineering of sports facilities and has been an active participant in Glen Cove youth sports for nearly three decades, wrote, “No matter when or how this issue is addressed, the installation must be done in a professional manner through professional installers with experience.”
After learning that the city did not plan to use his donation to buy artificial turf, Cervini filed a notice of claim against the city, essentially demanding his money back. The City Council voted on Tuesday to return it.
Hopke also took issue with some of Cervini’s “behavior,” saying that he acted unethically with regard to email privacy when he posted on Facebook several email chains containing the email addresses of the parents and coaches involved in Little League.
Hopke, who said he has “used or seen a few thousand cages” during his 50-plus years in baseball, also estimated “with absolute certainty” that a complete renovation of the batting cages would cost no less than $40,000. Belyea said she wants the city to have up-to-date cages, but her department doesn’t have the money in the budget to renovate them.
Further, she argued, the entire stadium complex is slated for large-scale renovations in the coming years. The plan, conceived as part of a $50,000 waterside recreational redevelopment grant, will add 8.8 acres to the complex — currently the home of a compost yard and once the site of a now-demolished incinerator — and allow the city to redesign the complex, which, Belyea said, “was built very hodgepodge over 60 years.”
“The batting cages wouldn’t stay where they are now,” she added. “It wouldn’t be fiscally responsible to take a resident’s generous donation and use it toward something that’s going to be torn down and relocated in the next two or three years.”
Cervini said, “The turf, you can pull up what you lay down. You just roll it up, roll it down, right?” He gestured to the batting cages, and added, less optimistic than Belyea about the timeline, “Why should these just sit here for five years while we’re redoing the whole place and the kids can’t