For more than 30 years the Roosevelt community has called for upgrades to Henry Street Park, home of the Rough Riders Youth Football & Cheer Program, and now the persistence appears to be paying off.
At a Town of Hempstead board meeting this month, a resolution was unanimously passed approving a 10-year lease with New York American Water, the Merrick-based company that owns the land. The town will pay a total of $1 and commit to maintaining the park in exchange for the lease. The lease gives the town the authority to make upgrades to the park.
"I am pleased to announce that the Town of Hempstead completed an agreement last week with NY American Water that will enable us to improve Henry Street Park for residents," Councilwoman Dorothy L. Goosby said in a statement. "The Town has met with local athletic leagues to discuss initial upgrades which will include improvements to lighting and installing new entrance gates this fall."
Other improvements include reseeding the field and an upgraded water foundation, officials added.
The last official document regarding a lease was a town memo, dated Jan. 3, 2005, in which former Parks Commissioner Nicholas C. Famiglietti said the town formally leased the property from Long Island Water Co., but could not reach another agreement.
In July, Newsday reported the poor conditions at Henry Street Park, which is the main practice facility for the Rough Riders program. Tim Pearsall, commissioner and coach for the football program, called on officials to upgrade the field. With support from the community, Pearsall said he is pushing to give the children a field they deserve and that he and other coaches are happy to see progress.
"We just want what’s right for our kids," Pearsall said Monday.
The team is also getting support from others in the community, among them the owners of Backyard Barbeque in Freeport. A donation from Kenny Ware and Michael Tony covered tuition for more than 40 children and paid for new jerseys.
Ware, 32, played on the same field when he was a child and said though the conditions have not changed he wanted to help in a different way.
"I felt it was only right that the restaurant sponsors the football team that we grew up in," Ware said.
The team’s coaches praised the donation, saying it helped out many families in the community.
"They’re young guys from the community, who gave back to the community and it’s so appreciated," said John Hanes, a coach and longtime Roosevelt resident. "It meant so much because they believed in them."
The coaches also cited the Roosevelt Board of Education, which waived a fee so the teams could play their home games at Roosevelt High School. Two homecoming games will be played there Sunday. The 5- and 6-year-olds will play Copiague at 11 a.m. and the 7- and 8-year-olds will play North Babylon at 12:30 p.m.
Both teams are undefeated with two regular games left in the season. Coaches said the players have a good shot at the championship this year.
Pearsall said he feels more comfortable knowing the children will finally see upgrades to the fields. And he thinks it’ll boost morale in the neighborhood.
"Finally they’re [community and government officials] working together and trying to get this done right for the kids," Pearsall said. "We just want to see results."
INITIAL HENRY STREET PARK UPGRADES
- Installation of new entrance gates and repairs to fencing where needed
- Repairs and improvements to lighting within the park
- Reseeding of grass in the off season
- Upgraded water foundation
- Entrance improvements