By Seth Daniel
One week after an idea was floated publicly by Councillor Roy Avellaneda to look into taking the Soldiers’ Home park (Malone Park) out of the state’s hands so the City could use it for youth sports programming, several councillors are lashing out and Avellaneda said it’s all politics.
This week, Councillor Luis Tejada, who represents part of the Park along with Councillor Matt Frank, said he is absolutely against any proposal to use the park for youth sports.
“I live directly across the street from the park,” he said. “For kids, we have 13-plus parks to play in. Question, how many parks do we have for the elderly and our veterans to go and be in peace and quiet? One, and now they want to take this away. The fact is that we do enough in this country to push our elderly and veterans aside so they don’t bother us and its a shame. We need to not allow this to happen. Not every park has to be set up for kids and young loiterers. Our elderly deserve respect. They have done their part in helping mold our city into what it is and it would be a shame to take the last place afforded to them just because some people feel they are not entitled.”
But Avellaneda said Tejada was playing politics.
He said he reached out to many councillors when he first starting thinking about the idea, back last spring when the playing field crisis first unfolded and it became apparent the City either needed a new field or needed to revisit the way it doled out its existing fields.
He said Tejada was open to the idea when they first spoke.
“If he had originally expressed his reservations and taken a position against this when I first talked to him, I wouldn’t have never gotten to the next step where we were meeting with the Soldiers’ Home,” he said. “For him to come out now and say he is totally against this, I ask why he mention he was against it six months ago when I first asked him about it…To do this now – being totally against it in the way he is – is bush league politics.”
Avellaneda said nothing was a done deal and it was simply an idea.
“Nothing was done in a vacuum and we never excluded the public or neighbors because, in fact, we never got to the point where we could get public input,” he said. “We were certainly going to get to that point. I was trying to find a solution to a problem. We had a long way to go.”
Councillor Damali Vidot, who initiated the discussion last year about the use of the playing fields.
She said Malone Park isn’t the answer, and looking at how the fields are doled out is what should be done first.
“I believe before the City starts to take away tranquil space from our beloved veterans and neighbors, we start to better manage our existing spaces,” she said. “We have a soccer field at Highland Park that has been completely monopolized by one entity under various names and catering to non-residents. Perhaps if we focused more on accountability and better management of those spaces, we could provide Chelsea youth the space they need as well as preserve space for our vets and neighbors during their golden years.”