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Open Letter to UAA Members

Have you lost permits? Has the parks department taken away permits claiming that youth leagues need time? Have you received a notice about the allocation of fall permits that jeopardizes your ability to provide softball and baseball leagues to your players starting this fall?

We have verified that the Manhattan permit office staff transferred permits from adult softball leagues to adult kickball under the pretense that the permits were needed for a youth league, East Harlem Little League, which played the last game of its season on Saturday, June 16 and never plays on weeknights. Now we know that they plan to extend their policy of denying softball permits to expand adult rugby, soccer and Ultimate Frisbee leagues under the same false premise. According to new rules and regulations just announced, baseball and softball are no longer fall sports, but frisbee is.

The Manhattan permit office was dishonest when Yorkville Sports Association first asked about missing permits in April. YSA was told that the permits were given to someone else by mistake and that the permit office was in the process of correcting the error. After repeated weekly emails asking for the permits, YSA was told they were given to a youth league. YSA has proof that the fields for which they had been receiving permits for years were either idle during the original time requested or were reallocated to another adult league playing kickball.

Only after numerous emails and video showing the fields idle did the permit office start releasing the permits they were warehousing. Despite being confronted with video evidence to the contrary, the permit office continues to maintain that the remaining misallocated permits have been assigned to youth leagues. This is not the case.

As a result of this unethical behavior, YSA softball teams lost three months of play, and are now in danger of being unable to complete the spring and summer seasons. In an unprecedented and extremely offensive move, the permit office has now decided without any ;proper prior notice, meeting or announcement to eliminate fall softball.

Just last week, three months after the submission of spring extension requests and fall permit applications, and while maintaining that extensions and permits “were in the works,” the Manhattan permit office sent an official communication, informing fall leagues that softball permits will not be given priority during the fall season. To quote their email: “Please be advised that Soccer, Football, Rugby and Ultimate Frisbee are priority for the fall season. All other sports will be reviewed and approved if space and fields permit.”

With no word regarding the spring extensions submitted in May, this policy change pretty much guarantees an abrupt end to current spring and summer seasons. It is very clear that the permit office decided at some point, without any public input (and I hope unbeknownst to the Park Commissioner and City Council), to change the rules, regulations and procedures of the permitting process. Their actions will deal a crippling blow to softball in New York City. Adult men’s touch football, three-man immediate-rush, was pushed out of Central Park roughly 15 years ago, effectively destroying the leagues. We would hate to see the same happen to softball.

Softball is being restricted and curtailed. We believe it’s to promote and help build Ultimate Frisbee while delivering a crippling blow to our softball community. Why would you push out a large long established sport to promote a smaller, new start-up? As a sports company, with a passion for all sports, we believe all leagues should have a level playing field. We do what the other leagues do – pay the city to use public land to promote sports leagues that entertain and engage the community we serve while improving the urban living experience for everyone.

The Manhattan permit office is deliberately sabotaging and downsizing long standing legitimate organizations who helped bring life back to city parks over the past 40 years. This has been the mission of some at the Manhattan permit office for more than 20 years. (Interestingly, only one Borough Commissioner opposed and refused to fully support The New York City Mayor’s Trophy Cup Tournament that raised funds for the Citywide Youth Softball Tournament. When the UAA presented Mayor Giuliani, New York City Sports Commission head Ken Posziba, Henry Stern and each Borough Commissioner with a commemorative jacket as a thank you for supporting the softball community’s citywide effort to give back, only one Commissioner refused the jacket.)

In fact, that same Commissioner headed a Task Force looking into possible corruption in the misuse of permits around the same time. His targets were YSA and the other large leagues. That backfired when his investigation found no wrongdoing, and the press publicized the story. The resulting PR actually provided extensive free advertising and helped to grow adult sports into now an industry. I don’t think he’s ever gotten over that.

In support of the local baseball and softball community, active for more than 150 years, we are launching a major pushback. Our multi-faceted approach includes a call to action. We’re in contact with Take Action NYC, Citizen Action of New York, and letter writing campaigns to the media and directly to the City Council President and Parks Committee. We are asking the City Council Parks Committee to look into the allocation of permits by the Manhattan permit office. We have set up social media sites to help get the word out and to provide convenient access to city official’s contact information. Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to join the conversation and keep up-to-date on latest developments.

If you represent an adult sports league that has lost permits in the last two years because they were reassigned to another adult sports league, please join us in calling for an investigation and eventual replacement of the worst borough commissioner for local sports leagues in memory.

We invite all United Athletic Association (UAA) members, players past and present, the corporations who play with you, local businesses and everyone in the New York City community who has benefitted from softball and believes in fair and honest play to join our effort. We deserve transparency and we need to know who and what is driving this policy change. You cannot eliminate one of the great American sports from the greatest American city by administrative misdeed. Let’s meet and discuss the next steps. The time to step up is now.

If you want to get involved and help organize rallies and campaigns, please reply with your ideas and suggestions. We look forward to collaborating with you to protect softball and baseball, and to assure the future of softball in our great city.