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Some Eastport residents not happy with noise, lights at new athletic complex

Elaine Harrison, shown on Sept. 26, 2014, says

Elaine Harrison, shown on Sept. 26, 2014, says she has had to deal with bright lights, noise and baseballs flying into her yard since the Eastport South Manor Athletic Complex was built. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The Town of Brookhaven built it, and they came.

Some Eastport residents came to cheer, but some jeered, when town officials opened the $4.2 million Eastport South Manor Athletic Complex earlier this year at the intersection of Sunrise Highway and County Road 51.

Town and sports league officials said the facility's three baseball diamonds give local children a chance to play on state-of-the-art artificial turf fields.

But some neighbors say the field of dreams is a nightmare.

Officials of the Eastport South Manor Sports Association, which organizes games for more than 1,000 young athletes, said the complex -- on 10 acres that had been donated to the town -- provides fields for leagues that previously had to compete to use playgrounds at local schools.

"These look like professional baseball fields compared to the varsity fields," Eastport South Manor Little League president Kevin Flaherty said. "These kids, they felt like Derek Jeter over there."

Other residents, such as Laura McMahon, said cheering fans and the crack of the bat have disturbed their normally quiet neighborhood.

"When there are certain ballgames going on, it sounds like Citi Field. It's that loud," said McMahon, whose Old Manor Road home abuts the complex. "I don't have the same quality of life in my backyard as I did a year ago."

Some problems associated with the fields have been at least partially resolved, officials and residents said.

Traffic has been redirected away from nearby homes, and protective netting was installed to prevent balls from flying into neighbors' yards, town officials said.

Lights that illuminate the fields were changed to address complaints that too much light was disturbing neighboring homes. The lights also are turned off earlier, town officials said.

But some neighbors said town officials had assured them the fields would not be illuminated.

"Nobody knew these lights were coming," Old Manor Road resident Elaine Harrison said. "I still have kind of an ugly view out my window because I have a 70-foot light pole at the end of our property."

League officials said lights were needed to complete games that aren't over by sundown. "If you don't have lights, what is the purpose of having a facility like this?" sports association president Ian Kessler said. "Having these fields has been a godsend."

Town Councilman Dan Panico said lights were added to serve more teams and leagues.

"We've created what really is one of the nicest field complexes in all of Brookhaven, and, I would argue, in all of Suffolk County," Panico said.

Panico added that the property could have been used for a hospital or nursing home that would have created traffic, noise and lights all day long.

McMahon said a nursing home "could have been a lot quieter. It doesn't have these lights that look like a UFO landing."

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