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The Debate Continues on Usage of Lights at Butler Field

FieldLightsThe debate about lights at Butler Field continued at the May 13 meeting of the Board of Education when Athletic Director Ray Pappalardi provided an update on his efforts to come to an agreement regulating field usage with neighbors.

He said there was general consensus among all stakeholders that “everyone wants to support our student athletes,” and that the “lights should benefit all the children of Scarsdale,” including those who participate on high school teams and younger children who play with the Independent Sports Organization. He said there was agreement that the lights would be in use from September through November and March through May and everyone could agree on the times would the lights would be turned on.

However he said, “We have not come to an agreement on when and how frequently practices can take place on the turf field,” and “We have not begun to tackle rules of enforcement and penalties.”

Seeking further clarification on the points of disagreement Dr. Hagerman asked Pappalardi to outline the difference between current practice times and what would be possible with the lights. Pappalardi said, “There are disagreements around how late the lights should be on.” He said, “Current practice is that the field is reserved until 7:30 pm five days a week. On Saturday we typically don’t have to go late. (With the lights) there is the potential is to extend practice up until 9 pm Monday through Friday nights. The draft now has 8:30, but 8:00 would be a more reasonable time for kids to get home.”

Board member Nina Cannon said, “We should leave some flexibility in this policy… To lock ourselves in – there may be circumstances why we need the lights later.”

Board member Chris Morin agreed. He said, “There is no reason that practice can’t take place. 9 pm is not unreasonable. Students stay up later as the days get longer. I am all for keeping flexibility in and making no limitations on practices.” Later in the discussion he added, “It is not abnormal for kids to have activities going on at the high school until 9 or 10 at night. We have discussed events other than sports – what about graduation? Concerts? We should add that to this agreement. Also music – what about that?”

Discussing an enforcement and penalty policy, Dr. Hagerman said that administrators and faculty were compelled to follow district policies and that no enforcement or penalties need to be delineated. He said, “We will follow the agreements we have laid out.”

Community members had lots to say about the proposal:

Nina Zoota of Cohawney Road questioned budget priorities, telling the Board that her son is on the Varsity swim team and must travel to practice. She said there are “no resources here.” She continued, “Do I think a 9 pm practice is reasonable? 9 pm does not work for us. Having practice ending at 9 is too late.”

Claudine Gecel of Kent Road also had concerns about budget priorities. She said she had just returned from the NYS Science Olympiad and that staffing limitations at the middle school prevented some students from competing. She said, “with current staffing we cannot go to nationals.”

Janet Korins of Ogden Road said, “I am not sure we have agreement on the issues. From the neighbors’ point of view this is a serious issue that should not be minimized. Practices and games can be heard from the field. At 7:30 at night the streets are quiet. We really value the quiet in the neighborhood and it is a significant issue. This affects everyone in the community. The neighbors have no idea that there will be games and practices late on weeknights. Now people are suggesting events and concerts – this is a legitimate concern for the neighbors. The fact that this is generous gift should not affect the process.”

Several student athletes spoke in favor of the lights. Emmeline Berridge from Garden Road who plays varsity basketball and lacrosse, is a CivEd advisor, and participates in Model UN said that the student body lacks spirit. She said, “Lights would turn games into events.”

Varsity Lacrosse team captain Andrew Bernstein seconded Berridge’s feelings on school spirit. He also noted that “many opponents have lights,” and that with lights, “bigger crowds would come.”

Mia and Sophie Carroll of Sunset Drive spoke in favor of the lights, saying “most of the teams we play have lights and are at an advantage.”

Rippy Phillips, who heads the youth football program said, “Night games are phenomenal. Without a turf field and no lights, we missed 15 practices for youth football – or half the season. I had to cancel practices because the fields were under water. We want a little piece of that field if our practices are cancelled.”

Phillips continued, “It would be nice if the ISO’s could use the lit field after the high school kids go home at 8 pm. Twenty years ago we had these same arguments about the turf field. We had all these arguments – but once it was in, everyone realized this was the best thing!”

Jeremy Gans of Harvest Drive said he was President of the Scarsdale Youth Soccer Club and favored installing lights at Butler Field. He said, “We had a wet fall. There was nowhere for the teams to practice …. I believe the long term solution is more turf fields in Scarsdale.” He added, “I have a second grader who plays until 8 pm. It’s not unreasonable for kids to stay out until 9 under the lights.”

Brice Kirkendall Rodriguez who heads the Old Scarsdale Neighborhood Association said, “We must find balance. Minority populations should have a voice and basic rights. The immediate neighbors are entitled to peace and quiet in their homes. Unreasonable hours of use will affect sleep and homework for aspiring students. I am confident that a satisfactory solution can be conceived.”

Mark Michael of Carstensen Road said, ”the (use) creep will impact my quality of life. For those of us that are working on a compromise it sounds like the decision has already been made. It sounds like we’re expanding it every which way. We can come to a reasonable consensus – but allow the participants to come up with solutions that work for all the parties.”

Dan Ornstein, also of Carstensen Road thanked Ray for bringing both sides of the issue together. He said, “I am unique in that I live across from the field, but grew up here, I was a varsity athlete here and have three kids who all play sports. I have worked hard to work with the concerned neighbors. It’s really important not to brush over the details here. I can promise you as someone who will support that there are real issues. Sound travels when there are no leaves on the trees. Please don’t rush this decision – the devil is in the details. Don’t rubberstamp the lights – it has to be done the right way.”

Julie Zhu of Harcourt Road drew a parallel between this decision and the one to hire an outside candidate to be Principal of Edgewood School. She said, “Many parents were surprised. Both decisions will have a long-term effect. Night lights will be irreversible and permanent. Both decisions shape priorities of our school and the character of our community. I heard references to neighboring schools having night lights. New Rochelle – has lights – part of $108 million bond and Edgemont also does, and they were paid for with a $12 million bond. They both have lights with public funding and community buy-in.”

Though Pappalardi said that extensive outreach had been done to the community, there was no representation from the Fox Meadow Neighborhood Association, representing many residents who surround the school.

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