Members of the Marine Park Bocce Club say they are fit to spit over the fact that the Parks Department hasn’t done anything with the $50,000 former Assemblyman Frank Seddio allocated to fix up their courts more than seven years ago — leaving them no choice but to make their own repairs to the broken down play space.
Players say they took it upon themselves to build awnings on both ends of the only usable bocce court in the park. Two other courts, which are just paces away from the more than $16-million Carmine Carro Field House, are in such disrepair they can only be used to play horseshoes, they claim.
“Frank Seddio left us $50,000 and all we got from the city were two awning covers, worth about $500,” said 83-year-old bocce club member Michael Camporeale. “The Parks Department just kept the money, claiming it was appropriated for capital improvements, which they haven’t done.”
John LaFemina — a friend of the club who recently passed away — built the frames himself, members said.
The club asked the city for a permanent awning, but the city said such an edifice would cost $250,000, according to Assemblyman Alan Maisel.
“The problem was that the money Frank Seddio set aside wasn’t enough for the Parks Department to rebuild the courts,” explained Maisel, who took over Seddio’s seat after the civic leader became a Surrogate Court judge.
But Seddio says the city’s asking price was beyond reason.
“They wanted some ridiculous number that’s insane,” he said. “There’s two types of structures they considered, a permanent one they said would cost $250,000 that could have withstood an atomic bomb, and a prefabricated structure that would have cost around $70,000 and could have lasted 30 years.”
The city gatekeeper for parks projects — the Public Design Commission — wouldn’t sign off on the prefabricated structure and the state couldn’t spare the $250,000 needed for the would-be fallout shelter, Seddio said. The $50,000 he set aside has been collecting dust ever since, he claims.
“I’m not sure what role the Public Design Commission has,” said Seddio. “I could understand if they’re in Central Park and they’re going to play around with the statues, but my problem with these types of groups is they’re out of touch with the reality of the situation and these enormously expensive projects.”
Attempts to reach the Public Design Commission for comment were unsuccessful.
At this point, however, bocce club members just want their courts fixed.
“With Seddio’s money we could have made three new courts” said Camporeale. “All it would have taken was $1,500 to get the courts in good shape.”
Maisel agreed, claiming that the Parks Department has allowed the bocce courts to languish — along with most other facilities in the park.
“The bocce courts are run down, but there are so many other things that need renovations,” he said. “Every year, Parks is the first city agency that gets budget cuts. Have you seen the tennis courts?”
Meanwhile, membership of the Marine Park Bocce Club is dwindling. Players blame the unusable courts.
“The club is dying off little-by-little,” said longtime club member Pete Terranova. “The Parks Department is doing their part to kill it.”Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cn