The prospect of a temporary cricket stadium in Van Cortlandt Park has left many cricket players apprehensive of potentially losing their scheduled season next year.
John Moore, a Manhattan resident, is the coordinator of two clubs that play at the park, including the Wanderers New York Cricket Club. He’s told several news outlets that the building of the stadium would eliminate access to the park to both cricketers and other families trying to use it for recreational sports.
“The Adams administration needs to seriously rethink what seems to be a pretty half baked and inappropriate proposal,” Moore said to Fox 5.
As of this time, Mayor Adams has not released a statement regarding the cricket stadium, though representatives of his administration attended the CB8 meeting on Thursday, July 20.
In an interview with The Riverdale Press, Moore said Van Cortlandt Park is the largest venue for recreational cricket in New York City and while there may be other cricket sites scattered across the city, the park is “the heart of the local cricket communities.”
The cricket season at Van Cortlandt Park usually starts in mid-April and ends in mid-October. However the proposed construction would take place from January to June, then demolition in July, gutting the 2024 season in half for Moore’s cricket clubs and other clubs alike.
“We’re not in favor of that,” Moore said. “There’s no long-term benefit.”
Cricketers in the area have already had to settle for less when four of their 12 pitches at the park were re-purposed for soccer, leaving them with eight.
Moore heard a rumor from the “local grapevine” that a match that would be played at the proposed stadium would be between India and Pakistan. He explained how the two countries never play one another at either’s home stadium. This is due to the two countries’ tense relationship and history of conflict. If the rumor were true, it would require extra policing at the stadium, Moore said.
All of the clubs that play cricket at the park have been talking to each other trying to figure out what is going on, with an overwhelming majority disapproving the proposal, Moore said. He suspects the plan must be spearheaded by a couple of local people in the cricket community who see something in it to “suit their purposes.”
Moore says if the plan was more properly thought out in a way that benefited local and cricket communities they would all be on board. He likes the idea of expanding cricket into the U.S. though says it will be an uphill battle, likening it to bringing baseball to India.
He also said there were other alternatives to be considered for the venue, such as Randall’s Island’s Icahn Stadium.
That venue has held international matches before, as well as being a training facility for the U.S Olympics.
Gotham Cricket Club, a club that promotes amateur cricket in New York City, but does not play home games at the park, released a statement showing their support of bringing international cricket to the city.
“We are very excited about the potential stadium project at Van Cortlandt Park, as we believe that it will help enhance visibility of the quality of the grounds in the future and help project the USA as an upcoming powerhouse for cricket globally,” the statement read.
While the club said they are aware of issues of lack of access to pitches, it is their understanding that the leagues would help to accommodate matches at other pitches in the city.
The Van Cortlandt Park Alliance had concerns regarding the suggested proposal, particularly with the impact the tournament could have on the park and the two leagues with dozens of teams that use it.
“If the International Cricket Council chooses to pursue Van Cortlandt Park as the site of its T20 Cricket World Cup, it should fully examine all of the processes imposed by New York State and New York City law meant to protect park users, which cannot be overlooked or bypassed,” the statement read.
The alliance has requested “a seat at the table” where they can have their concerns answered by the ICC before they choose to proceed with their plans.
During Community Board 8’s emergency meeting last Thursday, several local residents and users of the park voiced their concerns regarding sports and the environment impact.
Leona Teten, a former board member and cross country-member, spoke of concerns of the stadium occupying the space that is used by many.
“Van Cortlandt Park is the only PSAL-cross country course in the Bronx,” Teten said. “And it’s been the site of borough championships and city championships as well as invitationals like the Manhattan College invitational … and according to the renderings the stadium sits right on the course.”
Karen Argenti, the secretary of the board of directors of the Bronx Council of Environmental Quality, said, “We find this proposal in Van Cortlandt Park parade grounds to be wrong and potentially disruptive on many grounds. Mostly because the city has failed to be transparent and follow the required processes.”
Debbi Dolan, a conservation chair at Hudson River Audubon Society and a volunteer trail maintainer at the park, also spoke during last week’s meeting. She is opposed to the proposal because of the sensitive birding area nearby and that the park has already lost some of its grass for turf grass in cricket pitches.
“We must not allow precious wildlife habitats to become degraded,” Dolan said. “Grassland birds have experienced a 53 (percent) reduction in population since 1970. Habitat loss poses the biggest threat to birds.”
Jade, a Van Cortlandt Village resident, also mentioned during the CB8 meeting how the amount of waste from the venue could potentially draw rats into areas that already have their fair share of them.
“It just really angers me that the people leading this, that actually want to build this,” said Chris Yarina, a volunteer at the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance.
“All they focus on is again, the number one thing in this country is sports and profit. It’s just all about the money. I’m surprised the mayor is in support of it.”