Category: Archive

Final whistle?

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

Gaelic Park may be heading for the final whistle.

The bastion of Irish sports in New York City for generations of immigrants could be swallowed up by plans to expand the Big Apple’s subway services within the next 10 years.

Facing record numbers of subway riders, the site’s current owner, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, is carrying out a review of its assets, including areas it has kept vacant for years, such as Gaelic Park.

And although the agency has no concrete plans for the site, any expansion of the MTA repair shop and storage track to the immediate north of Gaelic Park could mean the end of the famous playing fields.

Gaelic Park is used by the New York Gaelic Athletic Association, but it is leased by Manhattan College from the MTA. The GAA sublets the grounds from the college.

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An MTA spokesman said no decision has been made on the future of Gaelic Park.

"All property is evaluated and re-evaluated at various times and this is one of those times," said spokesman Tom Kelly.

But college officials have been approached by the MTA, who said the agency had made a tentative proposal to expand the repair shop and storage area at Gaelic Park to ease pressure on the Nos. 1 and 9 subway lines, which terminate at 242nd Street and Broadway.

"That is definitely on the table," said Manhattan College President Brother Thomas Scanlon. "The only place for expansion along this line is at this facility, which is why they have kept it for so many years."

The 20-year lease between the MTA and Manhattan College ends in 2011. But the lease includes a cancellation clause that would allow the agency to reclaim Gaelic Park within a reasonable time frame. Development of the plan could take as much as two years with consultations with engineers and architects, Scanlon said.

Any expansion would be a blow to Manhattan College’s sporting life — the college’s softball, lacrosse and soccer teams use the fields for practice and some matches.

"Clearly, I hope they don’t develop these plans for GAA and for our sake. But if they do, what can we say?" Scanlon said.

But Gaelic Athletic Association spokesman John Moore downplayed the MTA’s proposal. The GAA had been searching for another playing field and grounds for years and could announce a new site of its own within a year, Moore said.

"It would be sad to lose it, but nothing lasts forever. We’re working steadily on finding a new place. We hope to announce a new location within a year," Moore said.

Shutting Gaelic Park would close a chapter in Irish sporting life in America.

Gaelic Park was built in 1928, and except for brief interludes, continued as the nation’s primary site for Irish sporting events. Originally known as Innisfail Park, the site was a once popular meeting spot for families when Irish immigrants flooded New York City and the Bronx was the center of the city’s Irish life.

Although GAA sports declined over the years, Gaelic Park has seen a recently revival and is now the main grounds for the region’s hurling and football championships.

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