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1995 champs call for public support of basketball court revitalization project at tomorrow’s Village board meeting

Village by: Joanne Kountourakis, May 2, 2022

An image of the Downtown Northport Basketball Court Revitalization project’s updated plan which will be presented to the Northport Village board tomorrow, May 3.

A renewed vision for the Northport Village downtown basketball court may move one step closer to reality tomorrow, May 3, when the status of the project is presented to members of the new administration at the Northport Village Board meeting.

Two organizers of the revitalization, Chris Wiebke and Doug Trani, will be sharing an update on the initiative at the meeting, including a review of the plan from its inception through to today.

Located in Cow Harbor Park on Woodbine Avenue, the community court had fallen into a state of disrepair over the years. This past summer, members of the Northport High School 1995 Long Island Champion Boys Basketball team spearheaded a campaign to revitalize their old stomping ground. In July 2021, the team’s starting lineup – Mr. Trani and Wiebke as well as Greg Dunne, Rob Sanicola and Tom Radman – presented their plan to Village board members.

A GoFundMe page established that summer with the help of the Eatons Neck Youth Club has raised $66,500 toward the project; in December, Village officials, in collaboration with New York State Senator James Gaughran, announced the procurement of additional funds in the form of a $75,000 State and Municipal Facilities (SAM) grant.

Mr. Trani had originally anticipated breaking ground this spring, with hopes of an official court unveiling by Cow Harbor Day this September. He and Mr. Wiebke are cautiously optimistic that tomorrow’s meeting will continue the momentum the team gathered last summer and propel the project into action, though the project’s timeline will have to be adjusted.

“We were fortunate that when we brought the idea to Village leadership last year that they were receptive and supportive,” said Mr. Wiebke. “But now with the new administration, led by Mayor Koch, we have enthusiastic and action-oriented leadership in place. They see the value that this project will yield for Northport residents. This is more than just a basketball court, this is a beautification project that will transform a swampy, unusable corner of the park into an attractive landscape worthy of the beauty of Northport Harbor.”

The group recently collaborated with the Northport Native Garden Initiative (NNGI) and has included in its plans the use of native plantings in areas surrounding the court, plantings that will improve the ecological value of the surrounding green space and help mitigate stormwater runoff to protect the harbor, said Weibke.

Mr. Trani said tomorrow’s meeting is also an opportunity to remind the public about the team’s original inspiration and its reception by the community, highlighted by the many people and organizations that came out to support the project.

“The outpouring of support from Northport individuals and businesses was tremendous and we are excited for them to see their generosity come to life,” said Trani. “This project is a perfect example of the power of teamwork.”

Trani cites cash contributions from the community, including tremendous support by Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce of the John W. Engeman Theater, the donation of the project plans by Huntington-based The Laurel Group, and the grant from NY State Senator Jim Gaughran as an example of the community's generosity and kindness. Organizers also received mentoring from the 1653 Foundation, a not-for-profit created to restore, manage, and enhance the parklands and public spaces of the Town of Huntington, and continues to benefit from its partnership with NNGI. “The Village will benefit from this terrific project without any financial burden to Village taxpayers,” said Trani. “That’s pretty remarkable and there are a lot of people to thank for it.”

While a resolution to put the project out to bid is not on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting, Mr. Trani and Mr. Wiebke are hoping public support of the project inspires the board to vote on a resolution promptly so the project can move forward.

Stay engaged: Do you want to see the basketball court revitalization happen? Are you happy the plan is incorporating native plants to benefit the health of the harbor? Show up at the Village board meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, May 3 at 6pm, to support the project with your presence and/or your voice. Northport Village Hall is located at 224 Main Street in Northport. Can’t be there in person? You can catch the meeting virtually here.

The August 2021 Northport Journal article detailing the aspirations of the Northport High School 1995 Long Island Champion Boys Basketball team to revitalize the basketball court can be found here.