Some Neighbors Are Not Cheering New Sports Complex In Eastport

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The Eastport South Manor Sports Complex, which opened in late June on the Eastport/East Moriches border following some 15 years of planning by Brookhaven Town officials, is not inspiring everyone to break into a happy rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”

In fact, many Eastport homeowners whose properties abut the nearly $5 million complex, which boasts three ball fields and about 120 parking spaces, have a long list of issues with the new facility, which sits on 11 acres in Eastport, just south of the Sunrise Highway service road.

“At first, we had a problem with the cars,” said Elaine Harrison, who lives on Old Eastport Manor Road, just off Eastport Manor Road, and approximately 50 yards from one of the three baseball fields. “I’d say we had more than 60 cars whiz by that first weekend, trying to find the entrance.”

Since then, signs that read, “No ballfield access,” were placed at the end of her street to deter parents looking for the entrance to the facility, which is actually located off the service road of Sunrise Highway. It is accessible only if drivers take Exit 61 on Sunrise Highway while heading eastbound.

But now, Ms. Harrison said, the towering exterior lights that line the complex and noise from cheering fans are moving to the forefront of not only her list of concerns but those of her neighbors.

“I don’t think the lights should have ever been put in in the first place,” she said. “No one wants to live next to Yankee Stadium.”

She explained that the lights, which stand between 60 and 70 feet high, shine into several bedroom windows of her home and the home of her daughter, Arlene, who lives on an adjacent property on the corner of Head of the Neck Road with her three children—Avery, 6, Cole, 4 and Eric, 2.

“This is my home, and I feel like I can’t even leave some days,” the younger Ms. Harrison said, explaining that she fears her children will be hit by a foul ball or by a car that is speeding down her street looking to find the entrance to the fields.

One night, she said, a foul ball hit her son Avery in the leg, causing a fairly large bruise, while they were roasting marshmallows in their backyard. Ms. Harrison said she contacted Brookhaven Town Councilman Daniel Panico after that incident and, a few days later, the town installed a backstop on the field closest to her home.

“That could have been my 2-year-old’s head,” she said. “I emailed Councilman Panico that night.”

Though stray foul balls still find their way into her yard, Ms. Harrison said the lights, which are on seven nights a week and until 10:30 p.m., still shine into the bedrooms of her two sons. Both she and several of her neighbors are now contending that the lights were installed illegally—an allegation that Brookhaven Town officials say is untrue. Some neighbors are also contending that the lights stay on until closer to 11 p.m. most nights.

“The town complied with all laws, including SEQRA,” Mr. Panico said, referring to the mandated state environmental review that took lighting and noise concerns into account before the fields were built.

In response to the more recent concerns, Mr. Panico noted that electricians have been working on readjusting all 240 lights that illuminate the fields—there are 15 poles and each boasts 16 light bulbs—so that the light assemblies are facing downward and away from nearby homes. That work was completed on August 21, according to the councilman, and crews returned this past Friday to make additional modifications.

Laura McMahon, who also lives on Old Manor Road, said she was unable to attend any of the Brookhaven Town Planning Board meetings during which the sports complex was discussed, and thinks that town officials did not give residents ample time to voice their concerns.

“This definitely affects the quality of life around here,” Ms. McMahon said, “but how does this affect property values? I wish I knew.”

Elaine Harrison echoed similar concerns, pointing to the glow of the lights and the noise that can be heard coming from the field on most nights. The three ball fields are primarily used by the Eastport South Manor Little League, which has approximately 60 players, and Brookhaven Town’s summer baseball leagues, which boasts about 150 teams that compete at facilities across Suffolk County. Eastport South Manor soccer leagues will also be utilizing the fields this fall.

“I feel that it’s definitely decreased the property values,” Ms. Harrison said, noting that she owns three lots on Old Manor and Head of the Neck roads. “I don’t think anything of that magnitude should have been put so close to people’s homes.”

Roy Reynolds, president of the East Moriches Property Owners’ Association, does not live near the complex but that has not stopped him from urging homeowners to file complaints with Town Hall. He said he wants officials to conduct a light study and, once that is finished, lower the wattage. Mr. Reynolds is contending that the exterior lights are violating the town’s lighting code—another allegation that Mr. Panico and other town officials are disputing.

Mr. Reynolds said he attended several of the Planning Board meetings and does not recall members discussing specific details of the field, or the layout of the lighting.

“When you stand inside the park, it’s beautiful,” he said. “But when I stood in someone’s backyard and saw the lights, it was a completely different story.”

But Kevin Flaherty, president of the Eastport South Manor Little League, said he attended the same meetings and said while he recalls hearing from a few naysayers, overall, most who offered input on the complex agreed that such a facility was needed in the community.

“In this case, the needs of many outweighed the needs of the few,” Mr. Flaherty said. “They did the best they could to please as many people as possible, and I think they did an awesome job. If I lived next door, I’d be there on my days off with my kids playing Frisbee and running around. Why not?”

Jim Gleason, vice president of the East Moriches Property Owners’ Association, also does not live near the sports complex but notes that the lights distract those traveling at night. “It’s not just a question of people who live right next to it who are affected by it,” he said. “It’s the whole area.”

Mr. Panico, meanwhile, notes that he has been working with community members, including Ms. Harrison, to address all of the issues that are being raised. He also noted that, with such facilities, there is always a period of adjustment.

“With a new complex, there are going to be tweaks,” Mr. Panico said. “We’re going to work to resolve every issue that we can that’s reasonably possible.”

At the same time, the councilman said he is uncertain if there is a solution regarding the noise complaints.

“Thousands of moms and dads in Manorville, Eastport and East Moriches finally have a place for their kids to go and recreate,” Mr. Panico said. “I cannot and will not stop parents from cheering on their sons and daughters.”

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