Queens Falcons fight for home

September 17, 2009 2:46:42 PM PDT
They've played football on the same field for years. But now, a local youth football league says they are being forced to move. And they're not happy about it. They've even filed a lawsuit. "I think the city looks at this as a field of grass," coach Tim Cavanaugh said. "We look at it as a field of our dreams. We make dreams com true here for kids."

The Forest Hills Football League, also known as the Queens Falcons, is a youth football league that has considered Juniper Valley Park home for two decades. But the future of the league's five teams is now up in the air as the organization goes head to head with the city parks department.

"We've begged, talked, met, pleaded," Falcons president Gregory Hoffman said. "At what point do we shut down the program and put 250 kids out on the streets?"

The league has now filed a lawsuit. At issue is the grass field, also home to baseball diamonds. In July, officials informed the Falcons that they could not longer play there this season. Organizers feel they are being unfairly targeted.

"They've yet to provide any real documentation telling us, ok, we get thrown off," Cavanaugh said. "But you're going to issue soccer permits for this field because other organization have permits for this field, but telling me soccer doesn't rip up a field like football does?"

Juniper also has sentimental meaning. A banner hangs there honoring a former coach, Gregory's brother, who died in the September 11th attacks.

The Falcons now have to practice and play at a different location this season, but the coaches say it is unacceptable for several reasons.

"There's not enough space for one to run your whole program where here there's enough space for all our five teams," Hoffman said.

They say the lights do not work and are concerned about possible health effects from playing on the synthetic surface. But the parks department says, "This is part of a larger effort to have teams use new fields that are better suited for individual sports." Officials insist they, "tested all of the fields made with artificial turf last year and they are all safe."

Still, the Falcons are not ready to throw the towel in.

"There's a history that stands out at this park, and we believe it's worth fighting for," Cavanaugh said.



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