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North Babylon residents speak out against high school's bleachers

The seating is part of a $69 million school bond issue for infrastructure upgrades that voters approved in December in a vote of 872-499.

Newly constructed bleachers at North Babylon High School

Newly constructed bleachers at North Babylon High School overlook a resident's backyard. Photo Credit: Howard Simmons

Residents of Spangle Drive spoke out at the North Babylon Board of Education meeting Tuesday night against newly constructed athletic bleachers and a press box at the high school that are higher and wider than the prior set of seating and, they say, now tower over their residential backyards.

Residents are worried that attendees at the school games will throw garbage onto their property, and they say there is even the danger of them falling into the backyards.

“It’s a liability. It’s an eyesore,” said Chris Cannella, 42, who has lived in his Spangle Drive home for 15 years. He noted the bleachers loom over his backyard and that the old bleachers barely topped his fence, which is 6 feet tall.

“When there is an accident on our property, you guys are going to be called in. ... This is a liability," he said at the meeting, which was held at Robert Moses Middle School.

Cannella asked the board to issue a stop-work order until the issue is worked out.

School officials said Tuesday the work is about 98 percent complete.

Resident John Seaman, 67, asked if the board considered parking overflow and said the setback of the bleachers is just 5 feet from the property line.

“Where do you expect 2,000 people to park — on our block?” Seaman said. “Our property is being devalued and who compensates us for that?”

North Babylon Superintendent Glen Eschbach said all plans were subject to public review and that the district has scheduled a building committee meeting for Dec. 18, when the concerns will be discussed. He also said board members visited the construction site.

”Hopefully we will get a lot done and have a lot of answers to your questions,” school board president Daniel Caroleo said, noting the December meeting will be open to the public.

North Babylon school district officials said in a statement issued earlier this month that details of the project were shared with the community and were approved by the state Education Department. The bleachers, on the field's home side, are part of a $69 million school bond issue for infrastructure upgrades that voters approved in December in a vote of 872-499.

"Following the community-approved bond vote, the district began construction on a multitude of projects as scheduled and communicated with residents via public presentations, written communications and photo/video productions," Eschbach said in the statement. "Throughout this process, we continue to update the community on the progress of construction through the district’s website and at open meetings. Under the guidance of professional architects and contractors, all construction projects are being completed exactly as planned, designed and presented to the community and with approval from the state Education Department."

Some residents also said the district had issued a robocall targeting the residents of Spangle Drive. The Spangle Drive residents said they had been accused in the robocall of making threatening calls to district officials.

School officials said Tuesday they could not discuss it as there is an ongoing investigation.

Resident Denise DeMatteo, 69, said she had supported the bond, but she did not understand why the bleachers and press box had to be built so high. She asked the board to consider moving the bleachers to the other side of the field.

“I don’t even live there and I think it’s an eyesore,” she said.

Overall improvements are to be done over four to five years. Construction started this past summer on the $9.5 million athletic fields project, which includes improvements to football, baseball and soccer fields, as well as tennis courts and track and field areas.

Home football games are being played at the middle school this fall.

School officials said that in addition to the athletic field upgrades, the bond issue will pay for improvements to infrastructure and classrooms at each of the 4,700-student system's seven schools.

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