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Basketball organizers compromise on court size after meeting with Village officials; public hearing to go on as planned

Village by: Chrissy Ruggeri, July 9, 2022

A rendering comparing the paved court areas of the current basketball court with that of the original proposal and the one agreed upon by Village officials and project organizers yesterday.

The Northport Village public hearing regarding the Downtown Basketball Court Revitalization project, first proposed in July 2021 and approved by the then-administration, is scheduled for this Tuesday, July 12 at 6pm, at the Northport American Legion. The scope of the project has been the topic of debate among current Village officials and project organizers from the Northport High School 1995 Long Island Champion Boys Basketball team for months; an agreement on the court size, however, was made in a private meeting on Friday, July 8 and will be revealed publicly by the Village board at the beginning of the public hearing.

As a recap, the dimensions of the paved area of the courts are as follows:

  • The current court size is 53’x 40’ with two hoops

  • The 1995 team and project organizers proposed a court that’s 72’ x 56’ with two hoops

  • In mid-June, Mayor Donna Koch proposed a half court measuring 50’ x 47’ with one hoop

The compromise that was discussed at yesterday’s meeting involves a court with a 66’ x 50’ paved area, the minimum size that the organizers were willing to accept before moving forward and the size that’s currently marked with yellow ribbons in Cow Harbor Park. Mayor Koch said that in her “perfect world,” the final plan would include the reduced court size and a path that’s closer to the court. She also mentioned reducing other elements of the overall project to lessen its footprint.

“We’ve been more than happy to adjust the plan and compromise,” said Chris Wiebke, a 1995 team member and project organizer, at the private meeting with Mayor Koch, Assistant to the Mayor Don Tesoriero, Trustee Meghan Dolan and fellow co-organizer Doug Trani. (Both the Northport Journal and The Observer were invited by the Village to listen in on the meeting.)

“We are ready to turn it over and had some basic [requests] that were related to playability, but aside from that we are flexible,” Mr. Wiebke continued. “We want to make it work for you.”

This most recent and agreed upon proposal includes the possibility of the bathroom in the Woodbine Marina being redone in its existing location, with the entrance moved to within Cow Harbor Park. The bathroom will not be funded by the 1995 team; the mayor has told sources within Village government that a private donor and Village resident initially agreed to donate $250,000 toward the bathroom construction with the condition that the court is not made any bigger than its current size.

Whether or not the donor will accept the compromised plan is unknown.

One non-negotiable for moving forward now, according to the organizers, is that the court is dedicated to John Kennedy, a lifetime local resident, youth basketball coach and mentor. This dedication is particularly important to the team, and has been part of the plan since its inception. Project organizers are also requesting that the “swamp area” of the park closest to the court be replaced with native plantings. The organizers explained that they are willing to scale back on pavers that make up the hardscape and reduce the overall footprint of the project as a part of the compromise.

What about the trees?
On Tuesday, July 5, Mayor Koch and Roland Buzard, the Village administrator, tied pink ribbons around 15 trees in Cow Harbor Park they deemed would not survive the revitalization project. Not all the trees were slated in the original plans to be taken down – some were marked to remain behind “tree protection fencing” during construction, according to a rendering done by the Laurel Group. Based on Mr. Buzard’s assessment, however, these trees would have to be removed when the hardscape was installed.

The ribbons caused confusion amongst passersby who, with no signage explaining why and under which conditions they would be cut down, associated the removal of all 15 trees with the construction of the new basketball court. The ribbons – and the trees they purported would be lost – initiated a flurry of letters emailed to Village Hall in opposition to the court, the first since the revitalization project was announced in July 2021.

By Friday, just one ribbon remained, tied around one tree. The other ribbons had been removed under Mayor Koch’s instruction, after the project’s organizers agreed to alter the hardscape plan.

“I think they served their purpose,” Mayor Koch said of the ribbons in the meeting with basketball organizers. “When [residents] called here or they wrote here, we explained that they had to come down as part of it.”

How will the hearing work now that a compromise has been reached?
Details of the compromise are expected to be announced at the beginning of the July 12 public hearing. Participants will then have three minutes each to voice their opinions on the plan and present any questions to the board. The board will direct questions to the 1995 team organizers if necessary, Mayor Koch explained at yesterday’s meeting.

“I don’t want to walk into Tuesday’s meeting with a hostile situation,” Mayor Koch said. “They keep telling me it’s going to be a room full of kids with their basketball gear on, but I want to tell the kids we compromised and worked together. I think that’s a positive for the kids.”

After the public hearing, the board of trustees will vote on a resolution that would authorize the Village to hire Holzmacher P.E. for design and engineering services associated with the new proposal and plan for the basketball court revitalization project, with expenditures not to exceed $13,500.

If at least three board members vote in favor of the resolution, it will pass and the project will move forward.

Stay engaged: The public hearing is at 6pm this Tuesday, July 12, at the Northport American Legion, 7 Woodside Avenue in Northport Village. The Village board will listen to public feedback and take questions from the audience on this new plan before voting on the resolution to proceed with design and engineering services.

A rendering of the most recent and agreed upon proposal for the size of the basketball court in the Downtown Basketball Court Revitalization project.