Sunday, May 31, 2009

Roosevelt Island of the Damned: Rookies versus the Dish

Updates: The issues detailed in this story about the interactions with members of the Roosevelt Island community have been referenced in a number of local media sources from Roosevelt Island: NYC 10044, Roosevelt Islander, and Roosevelt Island 360. This update is from 5 June 2009.

(Please note...there are no photos from the game this week as David was off playing Jets and Sharks with a friend of ours...we are going to have a rumble after I post this blog.

The journey to and from Roosevelt Island was somewhat of an adventure yesterday. I arrived at the subway station at 57th and 6th street to find that the F train was running in only one direction. Of course, being new, I was convinced that the island was down by Brooklyn...and when I saw there were no downtown trains I became dismayed. I approached the glass box habitat of the MTA workers, and I laid my anxiety at their feet.

“Hey, since there are no downtown trains, how do I get to Roosevelt Island.”

“Roosevelt Island is uptown.”

“Oh I am so new.”

At this point the Blatino behind the glass started cracking up and said, “Can you say that again, please.”

“I am so new.”

At that point he fist bumped me...our fists separated by about an inch of Plexiglas.

“How do I get to the island then?”

“Just go down those stairs right there. And, you know, there is a mental hospital on the may wanna check it out.”

I cracked up and went to find my train.

The station should have been a clue as to what I would find on the island. The stop was largely deserted. It was sort of like the opening salvos of a horror movie. The unwitting Manhattanites boarding the Hell Train populated by the souls of the damned.

I emerged onto Roosevelt Island to a magnificent view of the Manhattan East River skyline. The island itself was an idyllic massive public housing project. For an island that was first settled by Dutch settlers in 1659...the island had very little in the way of architecture that predated the 1960s. Notable exceptions were a couple of old disease sanitariums, a church, and a house from the 18th century.

The island was beautiful. It was a sunny day marred only by the intense number of amputees roaming the streets. For the first time I saw a wheelbed. Much like a wheel chair with two large wheels in front and two smaller wheels in the back, but it was wheeled by a gentleman that had nothing below his butt checks.

I surmised there must be a hospital that focused on amputees nearby. I later found out that I was indeed correct.

I arrived at the softball fields a good 15 minutes before any of my teammates. I spent my first ten minutes staring out at the East River, at an industrial site, chanting and sending good juju to the team.

Once some of the other boys arrived, we began chatting with some of the folks there from the other teams already on the field. Turns out Roosevelt Island is a little bit like the Village of the Damned.

The field on which we would be playing was beautiful. A stand of birch trees at one end. A natural outcropping of native rock to the side of the fields. And raging idiotic local residents screaming racial and homophobic epithets out of their apartment windows.

Turns out when the other teams first arrived the locals had decided that despite the fact that our league had purchased permits to play on the fields that we should bow to them and allow their little rug rats to play ball on the field. It got so rowdy that the police came and arrested one of the parents. The families scattered, but mid-way through the second game of the first set of teams playing, we were treated to a whole host of obscenities. The best part ever was that the man screaming these things was sitting in the window with his two little boys standing next to him. That's what I call good parenting.

I wanted to scale the building and bitch slap him.

It also didn't help that a guy from one of the other teams playing was a complete and total drama queen, and was advising the middle of the day...surrounded by amputees and old walk in groups and carry our bats in our hands. Responding to idiocy with barely veiled racism is not necessarily the way to go.

That was the bullshit of the day....

The good part of the day started when Clay showed up. He was wearing a few too many clothes for my taste. I would have preferred him to play the entire game in a pair of boxer briefs and a whistle. But, you know, that's just me. We were sitting and chatting and it came around to the...ummm....guess the ethnic mix game. Clay's guess was that I was a Hisblasian. After correcting him, telling him that I am actually a Blatinoindiwhite, he raised his hand in a very pontifical manner and declared “Hisblasian.”

It was great to see the ladies of the Rookies. Noah was crackin' the whip, including at one point when Bowman and I were having a nice chat in the outfield and the Dish had the nerve to smack a ball to Right Center. I mean. Really. Who does that.

My other gem play of the day was when I picked up the ball, the play was at second, and I threw the ball to first. I am so awesome.

We had a great game. I smacked the ball way oh way out to the edge of the field. Reggie, after threatening to pack us all up and ship us to work on a cotton field in Alabama if we didn't play aggressively, took the field to fill in for Jim who was off doing something or another. Bowman, Noah, Herrick, Scott, Clay, and everyone else treated that ball like it was the back of a Mormon missionary's head. Smack! Smack! Smack!

In the end we won 15-8.

I had to leave before the second game, so I am not sure how that one faired. If Clay did remove any more clothing, I am going to be deadly upset. But, the first game was a blast, even with the idiots in the windows and the unclean souls on the train ride over.

(Update...I found out that we lost the second game 12-4. Clay should definitely have taken his clothes off.)


  1. Hm, you should rent the American version of "Dark Water". It's Roosevelt Island splendorrifick!

  2. The kids had a half an inning to play, you corporate wienie shmucks should have let them finish instead of calling the cops to kick the 8 year olds off the field.

  3. Though I was not there when the police were called, and I arrived after the police left, I understand from multiple witnesses that the cops were not involved into some of the parents started issuing violent threats towards members of our league. Further, this is NOT the first time folks from that community have failed to move from the fields when required. And none of that justifies the racial and homophobic slurs offered up against league members by members of the community, in front of their children no less. We adhere to the terms of our permits, and we also respect time...values that should be imparted to the children of Roosevelt Island. In this the fault lies squarely with the parents of those children. This was an opportunity to teach. The team did NOT attempt to usher the children from the field immediately. The league gave extra time. Also, ps, I have never worked for a for-profit corporation as a professional...and I don't think my job at Target in high school counts as being a corporate schmuck. Besos.

  4. It is indeed unfortunate that members of the community thought they had a right to use the field in their midst.

  5. Let's be extremely real here. The members of THAT community have a right of first reservation. Community members that follow the park rules are able to reserve the park for as long as they want, for free, and their permit applications trump other permit applications for field use. The community could have, easily, reserved the field for later and it would not have been a problem. The community did not. We followed the field reservation rules. We paid a fee to use the fields, which, incidently, goes back to the community. We showed up, in good faith, to use the fields that we had a right to use. We did not displace members of the local community. We used a public trust for which we paid the right to use.

    It was indeed a shame that members of the local community felt that they had such claim to a piece of land that their desire to use it without restriction and without abiding by rules that they themselves helped create should trump other community members whose tax dollars ALSO support said field and public land space.

    If this were a case where the local community had no access or even had to compete for access to the field, I would have refused to play on the field.

    The community should be able to count on being able to use that field if they follow the proper reservation practices which already, and should, favor them. But when they fail to do so and another group, following a universal set of rules, properly reserves the fields...then the local community should respect the rules they helped to create and vacate the fields at the appropriate time.

    You are not oppressed nor have you been wrong. You are acting petulantly. You acted petulantly, and the outcome of the day, with a parent being arrested, was a direct result of your overprivileged actions and a misplaced sense of entitlement. Period.

  6. I am an Island resident. If anyone wants to view an article from the local paper describing this incident, please look at

    The real, recurrent problem is that RIOC (the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation) doesn't get the fields ready on time. That's what happened in this case. Among other things, some of the needed equipment was missing. Because of this problem, the Little League games got off to a late start. The off-island teams showed up at their scheduled time to play and demanded that the kids exit the field.

    Imagine for a moment that you rented a basketball court inside a building. When you got there, the building was locked. It took over half an hour to find the key and then you found out there was some missing equipment. Finally, you started to play. Before the game was over, another team showed up and demanded that you get off the court before the game ended because they had paid to use it at that time. They, of course, expected the locals to leave their equipment for them to use, albeit without knowing that it belonged to the locals.

    Imagine again that the first team was made up of people from the neighborhood and the second team was made up of people from outside the neighborhood who made the sort of mean and nasty remarks about YOUR neighborhood this blog makes about mine. It's more than ironic for someone to get upset about supposed racist and homophobic remarks made by parents while making the kind of remarks you have about the disabled. Gee, I guess our neighbor without legs should make sure he stays indoors so that healthy young men won't have to look at him! Warning: he's in that same spot during the six warm months of the year, so if it's just too much for you to be subjected to such a horror change your route next time. (BTW, since RI Little League is about as racially diverse as it's possible to be, I have a hard time believing there were racist remarks. If anyone doubts that, taking a look at the photos of the kids who were thrown off the field. )

    I actually came to this site because I wanted to hear the other side of the story--I now have a better idea of what the kids and parents were up against. I'm curious--are you actually TRYING to turn this into some gay-bashing incident? Because it wasn't--the kids and parents would have been upset no matter what your color or sexual preference.

    DO YOU WANT TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM??? If so, I would suggest that you have some reps from your league show up before the scheduled starting time of the first scheduled game each day your league will be using the fields and HELP WITH GETTING THEM READY. If you did that, you'd be showing some good will and the delays would be reduced. Moreover, if the off-Island teams complained to RIOC about its failure to do its job in getting the fields ready, that too might help.

    By the way,the Little League has to PAY to use the fields. They don't pay as much as off-Islanders, but they don't get to use them for free.

    Better yet--find another neighborhood to play in. I don't care what your color is or what your sexual preference is--it's your yuppie "I'm entitled to this because I PAID for it" attitude that's the problem.

    It will be interesting to see if this is actually posted.

  7. Thank you for your response. There are a couple of items to which I will respond:

    1) I made no disparaging comments about people with disabilities. I live with a disability, and I full support and equal access to all the best in life for people living and creating without full use of their physical or mental health.

    2) I was sitting at the fields when a parent in one of the buildings facing the fields began screaming faggot, queers, and a number of racial slurs as well. This gentleman's children were in the window with him, still wearing their uniforms, while he screamed this things...including gems such as "suck my nuts," and even made lewd comments to the wife of one of your straight players.

    3) The issues with the RIOC are valid. They are not our issues. I will make sure the commissioner from our league reads your comments and suggestion, but the truth is that the league, on two previous occassions, has refused to exit the fields when the time was appropriate for them to do so. I read the article, and two other articles, from folks on the island...that seemed to appreciate my first hand account of what went down.

    4) I generally do not allow anonymous posts on my site, as they are cowardly. But, I felt that some of your points were valid.

    5) The incident did become a gay bashing incident. The fault is still the parents. I acknowledge problems with the RIOC, but, you had a time to leave the field, you failed to do so.

    6) To be clear, I work for social justice, in a non-profit, I grew up in extreme poverty. I am not now nor I ever been a yuppie. But I am educated, and I try to relate to folks in a way that recognizes their inherent humanity, holds folks and myself accountable, and refuses to take any crap from an anonymous individual that has an overwheening sense of entitlement.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings, and insights. And thank you for reading!