A plan to install lights for nighttime youth soccer at busy Van Bourgondien Park in West Babylon has angered neighbors who say extended hours would contribute to congestion that already occurs during games and practices.
"We are not against soccer and kids," Richard Preziotti, who lives on nearby Albin Avenue, said during a Babylon Town meeting last week. But, he said, "night lighting is adding more traffic and more noise to the situation."
About 970 children play in programs run by the West Babylon Soccer Club on 10 regular-sized and miniature fields at the park, and club officials acknowledge that parking and traffic are a problem, especially on weekends when games are scheduled so tightly that player pickups and drop-offs often overlap.
A petition signed by more than 150 residents in surrounding neighborhoods and submitted to the Babylon Town Board states that the lights will decrease property values for nearby homes. The petition also cites a 2004 letter from then-Suffolk County Legis. David Bishop that promised there would be no lights in the park.
Town officials say that letter refers to a different field than the ones being considered for night play.
Town and club officials say that soccer lights, which would stay on until 9 p.m., would decrease congestion by allowing more freedom for scheduling. "We could get a good hour between games so we can lessen the amount of people coming down at one time," said Steve Kamalic, the club president.
The eight lights would be placed so they would not illuminate neighboring properties, town officials said. Kamalic said that West Babylon already has lit fields elsewhere for lacrosse and baseball, and rival soccer clubs in other towns have lights that allow for late afternoon or evening practices.
The town has applied for a state grant to cover some of the estimated $500,000 cost of the lighting project, Babylon Deputy Supervisor Tony Martinez said, adding the town has not made a decision about the plan. On the question of property values, Martinez said, "I don't think that lights actually bring the value down. We pride ourselves in the Town of Babylon on having the best, state-of-the-art parks here on Long Island. We've invested millions in making the parks better for our residents, and the value of homes has gone up because of parks."