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America's Pastime
July 10, 2008 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Enterprising kids in Connecticut spend a few weeks clearing weeds out of an empty lot, planning a halcyon summer of wiffleball. They scavenge some plywood out of a dumpster, buy some paint, dig some holes, pour concrete, and next thing you know, they have their own custom built playing field. As one kid put it, "if we build it, they will come." But the outcome was not what they expected.
posted by tractorfeed (128 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
"But the outcome was not what they expected."

They've been playing too much wiffleball and not paying enough attention to local news: this outcome was entirely predictable.
posted by OmieWise at 7:10 AM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Kids assume they can violate property that isn't theirs and even build a structure without permission or permit on public land. You better believe people are going to get upset and rightfully so. This isn't kids playing in an open field, this is making significant changes to land someone else owns.

Sounds like there are tons of places to play wiffleball in the area, they just wanted their own spot. Fair enough. If the lot owner gave them permission go all out, but like wiffleball life has rules and these kids didn't learn them before starting.
posted by Science! at 7:12 AM on July 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ah, Greenwich, teaching children important lessons about civic zoning, drainage and NIMBYism by crushing their creative spark and discouraging their resourcefulness one wiffleball field at a time.
posted by Spatch at 7:13 AM on July 10, 2008 [25 favorites]


... tree-shaded Wiffle ball version of Fenway Park complete with a 12-foot-tall green monster in center field...

A mini-Fenway Park in Greenwich? Being one of the first bedroom communities outside the confines of New York City, I bet some in town are steaming because they didn't build a mini-Yankee stadium.

I keed, I keed.
posted by ericb at 7:16 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Goddamn kids! Get off of my drainage lot!
posted by eatyourlunch at 7:16 AM on July 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


Fuck Greenwich. Hard.

My sentiments are completely unrelated to, albeit reinforced by this article
posted by chillmost at 7:16 AM on July 10, 2008


Townsfolk should be proud. After all wiffle ball was invented in the county -- in Fairfield, CT.

What's next -- banning Frisbees because they were invented upcoast in industrial Bridgeport, CT?
posted by ericb at 7:19 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


When I was but a wee lad in the 1950-60s in Charleston, WV the whole neighborhood was vacant lots. My family was one of the first to build a home in the development area. The kids in the neighborhood constructed sandlot baseball and football fields, even a makeshift golf course. Each time the lot or lots occupied by one of our fields was purchased by a home builder, we would just move to the next one down the street and start over. Our family moved away before the entire development was completed, but I went back some 20 years later and there was not a vacant lot or playing field anywhere to be found. Bastards.
posted by netbros at 7:21 AM on July 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's a reason "Field of Dreams" was set in Iowa (he says from Iowa): people here aren't weenies.

Oh, and there's a lot of land. In fact, if these kids want to build a diamond in the park down the street from my house here in Iowa City, I'll help. I know the mayor...but who doesn't?
posted by MarshallPoe at 7:23 AM on July 10, 2008


"The field had 40 people last weekend for a Wiffle tournament, which is something no one bargained on when they bought their houses."

Wait until the African Drum Circle shows up!
posted by ericb at 7:23 AM on July 10, 2008 [36 favorites]


A Bronx cheer for the people who went out of the way to give these kids a hard time.
posted by Mister_A at 7:23 AM on July 10, 2008


I am going to have to dig really deep to get some empathy for the plight of the persecuted children of Greenwich. Let me see if I can manage that.

Wait, give me a minute.








Nope, I got nothin'.
posted by The Straightener at 7:26 AM on July 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


The "kids vs the system" spin of the article is laid on pretty thick...these aren't kids building something because they had no other options. Like Science! said, it sounds like they have plenty of other places to play and just decided to commandeer this site to build their own.

...the land floods and that the area was designated by the town as a drainage area, a function largely undone when the youths stripped away all the greenery and undergrowth.

That's the part where what little sympathy I had left for the kids evaporates.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:32 AM on July 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


These people are assholes.

Anyone who can't appreciate something like this needs to be hit in the balls and shipped up to Canada, because they're certainly not Americans.
posted by smackwich at 7:33 AM on July 10, 2008


Fear, litigation, and greed. These are now the American values. Baseball, apple pie, and family are just marketing.
posted by Ragma at 7:35 AM on July 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


Well, either you're closing your eyes
to a situation you do now wish to acknowledge
or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
by the presence of wiffle ball in your community.
Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in Greenwich Conn...

Friends, lemme tell you what I mean.
Ya got one, one, two, two, three, four bases on the field.
Bases that mark the diff'rence
Between a kid and a un'rachiever,
With a capital "U,"
And that rhymes with "W" and that stands for Whiffle!
And all week long your Greenwich Conn
Youth'll be frittern away,
I say your young men'll be frittern!
Frittern away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too!
posted by drezdn at 7:37 AM on July 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Kids assume they can violate property that isn't theirs and even build a structure without permission or permit on public land. You better believe people are going to get upset and rightfully so.

If those kids would have painted "McCain = Bush" on the outfield fence in this "public space," MeFi denizens would be rushing to their defense.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:38 AM on July 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Welcome to adulthood, kids. Check your soul at the door. At least you’ve got all that spare paint so now that you can’t play Whiffle call you can take up huffing. That’ll show ‘em.
posted by bondcliff at 7:39 AM on July 10, 2008


OK, so it's not exactly the sandlot, but does anyone actually read the "dangerous nuisance" claim without "oh, puh-lease" passing through their heads? You have to admit that there is a very large stick up a collective keester somewhere, and "inappropriate usurpation of green space" is a sure symptom that it's wedged in there pretty hard.
posted by ThusSpakeZarathustra at 7:46 AM on July 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


I am going to have to dig really deep to get some empathy for the plight of the persecuted children of Greenwich.

That's pretty funny, and all, The Straightener, but we are talking about 17-year-old kids (and younger). You're born where you're born. If they're 25 years old and have no sense of the good fortune they inherited, that would be different. But most everyone grows up thinking that their circumstances are normal, for sheer lack of frame of reference. I don't mean to call you out, because your post was pretty funny and not at all over the top. But I've seen other people do it, and dehumanizing kids because they're the "other" is uncool for whatever reason.

The kids should agree not to use the ballfield after 7pm. The homeowner's concerns aren't unreasonable. Too bad people can't just talk to each other to resolve this sort of thing, and that lawyers and politicians all have to be involved somehow. (IAAL)
posted by ibmcginty at 7:48 AM on July 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


I dunno the area there but maybe they can just compromise? There's gotta be a spot elsewhere that the city can just designate for wiffleball. It'll help community and then everyone'll be happy..
posted by pez_LPhiE at 7:48 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why do 17-year-old kids have $200 to spend building this thing? I worked when I was a kid. I'm sure some of them work too. I guess they're free to spend their money however they want, but you would have been pretty hard pressed to convince me to spend $200 to paint a make-shift wall green.
posted by willnot at 7:55 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The article said there are other available lots. Most likely, they're city owned too. I doubt they would have any land where the kids could do this that didn't result in a similar situation.
posted by onhazier at 7:56 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


This being Greenwich, they decided not to go quietly.

That comment baffles me. Is there something special about Greenwich and its residents that makes this make sense?
posted by never used baby shoes at 7:56 AM on July 10, 2008


But I've seen other people do it, and dehumanizing kids because they're the "other" is uncool for whatever reason.

Dehumanizing? Srsly?

There's gotta be a spot elsewhere that the city can just designate for wiffleball.

I don't know, man, the resources available to these kids are looking pretty slim:

Greenwich Parks, Playgrounds & Facilities

Babcock Preserve
Bible Street Playground
Binney Park
Bruce Park
Byram Shore Park & Rosenwald Property
Christiano Park
Cos Cob Mill Pond Area
DeLuca Property
Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink
Dundee Field & Gym
Eastern Greenwich Civic Center
Grass Island
Great Captain's Island
Greenwich Point
Greenwich Senior Center
Griffith E. Harris Golf Course
Havemeyer Field & Greenwich Common
Island Beach
Jaycee Park
Laddin's Rock
Loughlin Playground
Mianus River & Natural Park
Montgomery Pinetum Park
Park areas maintained by Parks Dept.
Pemberwick Park
Pocket Parks of Greenwich
Pond at Caroline Place
Roger Sherman Baldwin Park
Sachem Nature Preserve
Schongalla Nature Preserve
School Acreage
Sculpture & Monuments in Greenwich
Special Facilities in Town
Steamboat Road Landing
Steep Hollow Gorge
Thorn Brook Sanctuary at GHS
Tomac Lane Dock
Town Ballfields
Town of Greenwich Buildings
Town of Greenwich Tennis Courts
Western Greenwich Civic Center
William Street Playground
Woolen Mill Pond
posted by The Straightener at 7:56 AM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I get that there are other places for the kids to play, and I understand that the neighbors have a valid concern with regard to the reduced functionality of the field's drainage abilities, but why is it that people's first instinct in a situation like this is to lawyer up and start litigating? I mean, for fuck's sake, can't people just stick their heads out their window and yell at the kids to keep it down or get lost, like they did back in the day? Does everything have to be an opportunity to throw some legal weight around now?

This country was a lot more fun before people realized that they could sue over the littlest inconvenience. I blame Judge Wapner.
posted by quin at 7:57 AM on July 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Wait until the African Drum Circle shows up!

I'm bringing the grill and a cooler to that showdown!
posted by jsavimbi at 7:57 AM on July 10, 2008


This truly illustrates my disgust with the New York Times. If you look at the NY Region section of today's paper you'll see they lead with this ridiculous story yet if you scroll all the way down the page you'll see another lawsuit that has much more dire consequences: Hunts Point Residents Sue Over a Smell. It seems some kids in the Bronx are getting sick from toxic waste. Just an interesting juxtaposition between the richest and poorest neighborhoods in the greater NY area and who gets the headline. I guess rich kids being deprived of a "Huck Finn summer" is more important to NY Times readers (and Mefi readers) than some poor kid's throat burning day after day.

I have no doubt that WNYC is already working on a 3 part story on Wiffle-Gate.
posted by any major dude at 7:59 AM on July 10, 2008 [18 favorites]


"We’d all like our own Field of Dreams, but it’s worth remembering that Mr. Costner’s was in an Iowa cornfield. And, with all due nostalgia for simpler childhoods in simpler times, it’s possible Greenwich’s Wiffle version — on a lot valued at $1.25 million..."

Mark: Do you know how much this land is worth?

Ray: Yeah. Yeah. Twenty-two hundred bucks an acre.

Mark: Then you know we can't keep a ball field in the middle of rich farm land!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:07 AM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Anyone who can't appreciate something like this needs to be hit in the balls and shipped up to Canada, because they're certainly not Americans.

Our immigration policies are simply not that loose.
posted by srboisvert at 8:07 AM on July 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


How do we know that the other fields aren't being used by baseball teams, softball teams and day camps?

I don't know about Greenwich, but in my hometown, if a bunch of teenagers started hanging out (even while having wholesome fun) in an area adjacent to where younger kids hung out, parents would get pretty damn uppity. Actually, my hometown's police log is full of stuff like, "3:25pm: Broke up a group of teenagers in Memorial Park."

Maybe these kids really don't have a field to go to at any time they want.
posted by giraffe at 8:10 AM on July 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


It seems like there's a perfectly good field that they've got there, fully capable of being used for wiffle ball as-is without all the plywood structures and stuff; so while I understand that it's good for kids to get creative as well as play sports, perhaps they should have separated the two endeavors a bit.

I say this as someone who, with friends, dug up a disused playground and turned it into a BMX track one summer, complete with "banked" turns that tended to collapse at the top right when someone was riding up there...it stayed that way for a long time, until I went back one day as an adult and found they'd landscaped everything
posted by davejay at 8:15 AM on July 10, 2008


I guess they're free to spend their money however they want, but you would have been pretty hard pressed to convince me to spend $200 to paint a make-shift wall green.

Every penny I earned as a teen went to video arcades, marijuana, vodka, pornographic magazines, and cigarettes. These kids are doing it wrong.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:17 AM on July 10, 2008 [9 favorites]


"and colorful signs for Taco Bell Frutista Freezes"

They should have pursued a sponsorship deal. No one would have a problem with "Taco Bell presents: Taco Bell Wiffleball Stadium."

"Lin Lavery, one of three Greenwich selectmen, who inherited Wifflegate"

So wait, where is the Wifflegate Hotel and how does it factor in here? Because if it's just a cutesy appropriation from Watergate, I'm going to have to get some chocohol to calm my rageholism.

“I’m all for Wiffle ball and apple pie and baseball and the American flag, but there are plenty of fields in town they can use instead of building something in people’s backyard,”

It's not your backyard. Your backyard is the land behind your house that you own. If you didn't want anything happening on the land behind your house, you should have bought that land when you bought your house. (Though I understand in this case it was town land. But the argument is the same. If you want peace and quiet, buy some acreage.)

SWoC
posted by Eideteker at 8:18 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm all for the little guy, but this was private property they just commandeered. The concept is all romantic and such, but just because it tugs on the Americana heartstrings doesn't mean it's automatically in the right. Aesthetically appealing doesn't necessarily mean correct.
posted by WCityMike at 8:19 AM on July 10, 2008


Why do 17-year-old kids have $200 to spend building this thing?

Having lived in Stamford for 8 years, and having raised kids there, I can tell you that at least one of those Greenwich kids probably had 200 in his wallet given to him by his stockbroker father for weekend pocket change. [/snark]

The only legitimate argument that I see here is the drainage argument. If that field actually does flood, and the lack of brush and wildlife there will now cause that flooding to spill over into lawns and neighboring basements, then the neighbors have a real concern.

However, each of their other complaints just stink as pretty standard Connecticut lock-jaw NIMBYism ("lock-jaw" is a term I used for many years to describe residents there, as I come from the Midwest, and I got a kick out of challenging my friends and co-workers to say the name of the town "Darien" and actually move their lower jaw at the same time).
posted by thanotopsis at 8:21 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


s/wiffle ball field/420 hangout/ and see what the reaction would be. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. There are simple rules their parents apparently forgot to teach them: If it's not yours, don't fuck with it. Now, if they can redirect the lawyer fees to setting up something legal, everyone wins. Except the lawyers. And I can live with that.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:21 AM on July 10, 2008


but this was private property they just commandeered

Wrong. FTA: "building has been done on town property"
posted by thanotopsis at 8:22 AM on July 10, 2008


I commend the kids for the work they did and the enthusiasm they put into it, but I'm sorry to say I'm not the least bit surprised. As pointed upstream, NIMBYism is a hell of a driver. I'm sure if this happened a mile away many of those people that got all lawyerly would be saying "let the kids play ball, what's the big deal?".
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:27 AM on July 10, 2008


Wow. I'm getting the sense that there are a lot of MeFites who had some truly gray, dry-ass, brittle childhoods. That or adulthood has utterly drained you of blood.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:28 AM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Goddamn kids! Get off of my drainage lot!

A man works hard for his drainage, only for bums to come take it away.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:34 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


And we wonder why kids today stay indoors all the time and don't seem to be interested in the outdoors or their communities.
posted by tommasz at 8:34 AM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Teens are treated like subhumans. What Giraffe said above strikes me quite right. We don't want them around the little kids, we don't allow them in to adult spaces, then we complain when they "hang out" anywhere else.

But, I'm puzzled. Since when do teenagers play wiffle ball?!
posted by Goofyy at 8:35 AM on July 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


JaredSeth writes "...the land floods and that the area was designated by the town as a drainage area, a function largely undone when the youths stripped away all the greenery and undergrowth.

"That's the part where what little sympathy I had left for the kids evaporates."


A drainage lot worth 5/4th of a million dollars. Something is being glossed over here.

willnot writes "but you would have been pretty hard pressed to convince me to spend $200 to paint a make-shift wall green."

Ya, they could have spent that money on spray paint to tag all the cars for blocks around.
posted by Mitheral at 8:42 AM on July 10, 2008


It's possible that the kids are spoiled, inconsiderate punks.

It's also possible that the adults are crotchety, selfish NIMBYists.

Most likely, though, this is a situation where (i) the kids innocently and with good intentions set up a play space on public property, (ii) the adults who live nearby have legitimate concerns about drainage, noise, and liability, and (iii) a compromise outcome that attempts to address each of these interests would be a nice thing to see.
posted by brain_drain at 8:44 AM on July 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


A man works hard for his drainage, only for bums to come take it away.

Poor George Liquor.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:45 AM on July 10, 2008


But, I'm puzzled. Since when do teenagers play wiffle ball?!

As soon as they realize they discover you can unload with all your might into a pitch and not worry about broken windows or having to search the next block over for the ball.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:45 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone who can't appreciate something like this needs to be hit in the balls and shipped up to Canada, because they're certainly not Americans.

Uh huh. So, if a bunch of kids went into a nature preserve where there were protected species and dug up the vegetation and basically destroyed the habitat the people who complain should be hit in the balls? This is a designated set aside for a specific purpose - as a drainage area - it's not an abandoned lot.
posted by spicynuts at 8:47 AM on July 10, 2008


LET THEM PLAY!...LET THEM PLAY!...LET THEM PLAY!
posted by rocket88 at 8:48 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't they have their own backyards? Guess mom and dad don't want a green monster on their land. Sorry kids, but you need to just use a lawn chair like we did.

Plus, look how far back that green monster is. Are these kids on steroids?
posted by Ironmouth at 8:48 AM on July 10, 2008


Suburban Squatters Find Private Uses for Public Land:
In parks across the Washington region, neighbors keep creeping into the commons. Whether sneaky, stubborn, earnest or oblivious, these modern-day squatters have been nibbling at public land with verve. There are gardens and sheds, a Frisbee golf course and ball courts. The incursions have spurred discord in quiet cul-de-sacs and a sharp debate over citizenship, the environment and just what makes a park a park.

"We call it encroachment. That's just a very kind, politically correct word for trespassing," said Michael Rierson, resource protection chief for the Fairfax County Park Authority.
posted by peeedro at 8:50 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


But, I'm puzzled. Since when do teenagers play wiffle ball?!

As soon as they realize they discover you can unload with all your might into a pitch and not worry about broken windows or having to search the next block over for the ball.


Plus, you can play a full game with 3 or 4 people, which is important on hot summer days when your friends are feeling apathetic.
posted by bassooner at 8:51 AM on July 10, 2008


I really can't imagine having the sense of entitlement you'd need to commandeer public space the way these kids did. Or to refer to said public space as "my backyard." So yeah, I kind of hate all these people.
posted by 912 Greens at 8:58 AM on July 10, 2008


Uh huh. So, if a bunch of kids went into a nature preserve where there were protected species and dug up the vegetation and basically destroyed the habitat the people who complain should be hit in the balls? This is a designated set aside for a specific purpose - as a drainage area - it's not an abandoned lot.

I don't understand what the nature preserve has to do with it.

Also, a ditch works great for handling drainage problems, and is a lot less area-intensive than an overgrown lot of poison ivy. Or, God forbid, the residents deal with their own drainage problems on their property instead of relying on the ole government to do it for them. There are hell of attractive and cheap ways to handle most drainage issues.

Beyond that, it's not like they built the park our of plastic or something. When these kids move on to bigger and better things in life, it's likely that the lot will return to its previously overgrown state and that the largely recycled wood materials that they used to construct their field will return to the earth.

This isn't a question of environment or engineering, but cranky-ass people who hate children.
posted by smackwich at 9:00 AM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am left wondering how they got to the point of pretty much finishing their park before they were stopped. Didn't the neighbors notice the land being cleared? That's not something you can do sneakily. And yeah, it sucks that this has escalated to lawyer level already. In my town, some kids built a skatepark on CalTrans property under a freeway. When CalTrans declared that they would tear it down, neighbors, police, politicians, and even our Senator Barbara Boxer worked to keep "Lurkside" (now Bordertown) open. I'm not sure what's going on with Bordertown now; I have a feeling that going legit meant that a few would-be skaters are now in the unenviable position of trying to make their renegade park conform to insurance standards. Here's hoping it works out.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:01 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's kind of sad. Are the kids in the wrong? Maybe. They probably should have been a little more low key about it (clear the brush, and just play - don't build/paint a fence). Are adults over-reacting? Maybe a bit. Call me a curmudgeon, but I think the kids should be allowed to play.

My favorite quote from the article, "People think we should be home playing ‘Grand Theft Auto.’ "
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:02 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, a ditch works great for handling drainage problems, and is a lot less area-intensive than an overgrown lot of poison ivy.

Actually, no, it doesn't. Ditches and culverted creaks mean more pollution runs directly into watersheds, rather than being cleaned as it percolates through the soil. It also means that water flows much faster in times of flood, quickly causing flooding in other areas. Concrete allows no penetration of water, no softening of the forces it generates.

Otherwise, I agree with the rest of your statement.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:05 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Every penny I earned as a teen went to video arcades, marijuana, vodka, pornographic magazines, and cigarettes. These kids are doing it wrong.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:17 AM


Add "rock and roll albums" ($4.99 at Music Stop!), substitute rum for vodka, and yeah me too!
posted by marxchivist at 9:07 AM on July 10, 2008


Why do 17-year-old kids have $200 to spend building this thing? I worked when I was a kid. I'm sure some of them work too. I guess they're free to spend their money however they want, but you would have been pretty hard pressed to convince me to spend $200 to paint a make-shift wall green.

Now that you've gotten some of that grumpy old man "kids today don't know the value of money" kneejerk reaction out of your system, let me point out that this ball park was built by 13 teenagers. $200 divided by 13 equals $15.39 apiece. I could have contributed that much back in my days of working at KFC for $4.15/hour.

Oh, and to address the Field of Dreams references. I watched that movie with my dad, a former farmer and lifelong basefall fan, and he scoffed at it beginning to end, saying obviously the writers couldn't be bothered to learn out the first thing about farming. He pointed out that the baseball field wouldn't have taken up more than an acre of land. Even assuming that Ray's farm was a VERY small 100 acres (and it was much more likely to be at least 200 acres), that's at most 1% of his land and would hardly affect his crop yield. Then, in one scene, the banker brother-in-law is screaming, "You got no crop, Ray!" while a beautiful stand of corn waves gently in the background.
posted by orange swan at 9:08 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Id be willing to chip in to get some proper layers and drainage installed under that field...

I think initiative and innovation should be rewarded, while at the same time taking into account the concerns of all parties involved.
posted by subaruwrx at 9:11 AM on July 10, 2008


I really can't imagine having the sense of entitlement you'd need to commandeer public space the way these kids did.
This has to be parody. Seriously--you really can't imagine? They're kids. Kids do stuff like this. Kids everywhere, rich kids, poor kids, in America, and elsewhere. Always have, always will. Anywhere there are kids, you'll see makeshift soccer fields, or bike paths, or basketball goals set up at the end of cul-de-sacs. We dammed streams, shot birds with our BB guns, even tried to build a log cabin, cut down a bunch of trees before we figured out it was too hard. And not on our land, either--just out in "the woods," which belonged to somebody, I suppose, but not to us or our parents, certainly.

Where the hell did you grow up?
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:12 AM on July 10, 2008 [24 favorites]


The "drainage" things seems iffy to me, too. It's not a wetland; how does a weedy lot help drainage? In most places, junk-filled lots are just mosquito hatcheries after one good rain, and also, great places for drug deals and drunken teenage hookups. If the neighbors have drainage problems, they need to build or agitate for a drainage ditch, or some other solution. If they don't like crowds, fair enough; make games illegal after X time each day. If it's still too big a problem, how about turning the lot into a real greenspace asset--say, a mini-park, or even a community garden, since it's town land-- maybe these kids could use their building skills to help with that--and then finding the kids somewhere else to play wiffle ball?

And I agree, the story about the kids in the Bronx? Way more important.
posted by emjaybee at 9:14 AM on July 10, 2008


Don't they have their own backyards? Guess mom and dad don't want a green monster on their land. Sorry kids, but you need to just use a lawn chair like we did.

Once again, I don't know what things are like in Greenwich, but it seems like houses being built today (well, before the bubble burst) are huge and on the smallest plot of land possible. And homeowners who have a significant amount of land can sell some of their plot so another house can be built there. People don't seem to value a nice backyard like they used to. Or there could be a garden, a large deck, a pool, a swingset for younger kids.. you get the point.

And it's hard to run uphill on uneven ground without looking down. That's why I never played anything in my parents' backyard. I mean, other than the swarms of yellowjackets. Ouch.
posted by giraffe at 9:15 AM on July 10, 2008


Actually, no, it doesn't. Ditches and culverted creaks mean more pollution runs directly into watersheds, rather than being cleaned as it percolates through the soil. It also means that water flows much faster in times of flood, quickly causing flooding in other areas. Concrete allows no penetration of water, no softening of the forces it generates.

Without knowing the lay of the land, it is real hard to assume what sort of (albeit minor) engineering would need to occur at the property. I would lay my money on ye old dirt ditch being sufficient for an upscale suburban area without too many impermeable surfaces around, but again, it's pure speculation. My message is the same though: there is a 99.9% chance that there's an easier, cheaper and more attractive alternative to an underutilized and overgrown lot.
posted by smackwich at 9:19 AM on July 10, 2008


Jesus, do half the people on this thread even remember what it was like to be a teenager? A couple of kids show some initiative to actually build something and spend some time, uh, playing, and everyone loses their mind.
posted by idiotking at 9:27 AM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's a storm drain buffer area, designed to allow the existing storm drain to gently overflow. The purpose of buffer areas is to manage the existing storm drain, so it's already "engineered" to provide for overflow conditions; slowing down the water and allowing it to percolate through the soil. A ditch speed water up, and won't hold nearly as much water as, well, a field.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:32 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


i wonder if they asked the neighbours if they could build the field. a simple, "hi, we'd like to clear some bushes next door and play ball. would you mind?" probably would have gone a long way.

on the other hand, they might have just found out that spoiled, entitled teenagers grow up to be spoiled, entitled adults.
posted by klanawa at 9:38 AM on July 10, 2008


Playing wiffleball and building structures on open land are not the same thing. One is a red-blooded American pastime that has made this country great, and the other is just a sport played with plastic balls and bats.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:42 AM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


More rules! More conflict! More tension! More of everything!
posted by danep at 9:50 AM on July 10, 2008


Fear, litigation, and greed. These are now the American values. Baseball, apple pie, and family are just marketing.

Sounds like you're buying into the sophistry behind how this story--like so many other "news" items today--has been presented. Like OmieWise said, the outcome for these kids was a completely predictable one. This would be a nonstory were it not for the sympathy-worthy (but utterly irrelevant) detail that these were industrious teenagers playing wiffleball. What if the city-owned drainage lot had been taken over by equally earnest groups of a less "Norman Rockwellian" description? ..Say, Wiccan ritualists, or the local Harley motorcycle club? = NONSTORY. We would not be reading that story because it would not have been published.

So many (most?) news outlets today would rather fire up their readers' outrage with a "dramatic story" rather than simply report actual news. This is why we see headlines that say:

"Nuns With Dated ID Turned Away At Ind. Polls"

...as opposed to the less-dramatic, but alas absolutely non-newsworthy version of the exact same issue:

"Women With Dated ID Turned Away At Ind. Polls"

The common refrain that good ole' American values have been trumped by lawyers, marketing, and greed has made Rush Limbaugh a multi-millionaire. And one could also argue that it demonstrates not only the speaker's outrage, but also his malleability.
posted by applemeat at 9:57 AM on July 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Anyone who can't appreciate something like this needs to be hit in the balls and shipped up to Canada, because they're certainly not Americans.

Funny, I was just thinking that if someone in Canada tried to shut down a bunch of kids playing road hockey, that person would've just signed their own death warrant. Send the party poopers elsewhere!
posted by chrominance at 9:59 AM on July 10, 2008


Conn is also the birthplace and factory for the whffle ball. But that town for years outlawed use of its beaches to any non-resident. When a law student finally beat the town in court and the beaches opened to non-residents, the town slapped a huge parking fee for out-of-the-way parking lot for non-residents. That will show those non wiffle-ball non-lawyers: not in my neighborhood. Lawyers, we also understand, are good at hand ball and hand jobs.
posted by Postroad at 10:00 AM on July 10, 2008


I went to High School in Greenwich. Children and teenagers doing anything fun was pretty much ruthlessly restricted or prohibited back then too.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 10:01 AM on July 10, 2008


applemeat, why do you hate nuns so much?
posted by brain_drain at 10:04 AM on July 10, 2008


A drainage lot worth 5/4th of a million dollars. Something is being glossed over here.

Nothing's being glossed over - in insanely overvalued Greenwich, that is a fairly normal price for a buildable lot. The only problem I have is that it's not "worth" anything as cash right now; it's town property and, apparently, not for sale. It's only worth its assessed value as a public asset.

In this story in which we're clearly being invited to pick sides in a David and Goliath contest, I don't really see a clear hero. The kids are doing what kids do, and it's exactly the kind of thing I used to do with kids in my neighborhood. As MrMoonPie says, kids [used to?] consider any uninhabited property fair game. The niceties of ownership, especially with something like an untended vacant lot or "the woods" are not things kids are well informed about or interested in. We had the BMX trails, the "forts," the ramshackle sheds and old barns outfitted with our "clubhouse" stuff, the ponds and streams which we bridged and dammed. There's even been scholarship about the way kids organize and manage unused spaces - it's ubiquitous.

The difference between these kids and the ones I grew up is something others have noticed - the relative sense of authority. When we messed around with someone's property, and then returned one day to find our firepit taken down/ stuff removed / fencing across the bike trail / bridge broken / a new foundation dug on the formerly vacant lot -- we just had to shrug and go home, maybe a little bummed that the "Mechanic Street Woods" or wherever were no more. If the town or the police got involved (twice during my childhood, I was given a solemn ride home by an intervening officer), it was clear that they were in authority. In this case, though, the kids complained and their families decided to challenge the authorities:
This being Greenwich, they decided not to go quietly. They and/or parents alerted the local newspaper and politicians up to Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele of nearby Stamford.
There's some merit to this response. What an education in law, public property, and use of the civic channels for complaint and change. And yet, there's also something that seems a little entitled about it. If I had suggested that my mom call the lt. governor when they tore down our awesome bike jump, I guarantee you that conversation would not have gone very far. And it's true that few American communities already offer as many recreational facilities as Greenwich, CT., which is one of the wealthiest towns in the nation (second most wealthy by measure of land value per capita), with a per capita net worth of $430,000. It is not because these kids' story is more important than the kids in the NYC boroughs who are being exposed to environmental pollutants - it's that these kids, children of well-educated, savvy, well-connected major campaign donors, have a kind of political pull and access to power that poor kids can hardly hope to muster.

In the end, this is an adult problem. Kids are doing something entirely natural and somewhat entertainingly enterprising, but need to find and accept limits. The adults, by making this a contest of wills and projecting their own agendas onto the issue, are wasting the time of public officials. A compromise is most certainly called for. But so is a sense of perspective. The kids don't need Atticus Finch out there defending their God-given right to wiffle ball.

Finally, the last paragraph of this piece really bothers me. It's headed as an article, but it reads like an opinion piece. The last graf is opinionizing all over the place:
All kids deserve a Huck Finn summer. We perhaps have lost our collective minds about our overscheduled, overstressed young. But, in the end, maybe there was a reason that Kevin Costner built that Field of Dreams in Iowa and not in Greenwich.
All kids deserve a Huck Finn summer? Is this the official editorial stance of the New York Times? "Our" overscheduled, overstressed young - who's the "us" whose kids are so overscheduled? Do poor kids in less affluent areas deserve a Huck Finn summer, too? If they do, why is the story that's actually more threatening to kids' health being buried while this one is being featured?

I'm being disingenuous, because the answer's easy - this story is much more of a lightning rod for the affluent middle class. It's got everything - outrage, nostalgia, us vs. them, excesses of a society gone mad, villains and heroes, and money money money. So much of the Times coverage has gone this way; it breaks my heart, because the paper was once so very principled. But they've recognized that the thing that keeps them afloat as a print news vehicle is a simple one: the sheer affluence of the readership. Give the people what they want.

Oh, and remember the neediest. For a couple months out of the year, anyway.
posted by Miko at 10:13 AM on July 10, 2008 [28 favorites]


Shit my nogoodnik friends and I started a treehouse on a large apartment building's private property. We knew it wouldn't last, and we didn't bitch to anyone when it disappeared one day. Kids don't respect property lines and they never will. When they disrespect it you either ignore it or bulldoze it if it's a problem, the kids will find another place and likely have more fun complaining about The Man and rebuilding it Just Like Last Time, But With A Moat And Possibly Lasers.

The cognitive dissonance adults always show by doing this stuff and then acting surprised when teenagers are hostile and combative never fails to amaze me. If you always say 'no' expect to not be asked anymore.

Also, the Bronx/fumes story was on WNYC this morning. Mefi is the only place I've heard about these kids.
posted by Skorgu at 10:24 AM on July 10, 2008


My message is the same though: there is a 99.9% chance that there's an easier, cheaper and more attractive alternative to an underutilized and overgrown lot.

You really have no idea what you're talking about. Please stop pretending that you do.

It's a storm drain buffer area, designed to allow the existing storm drain to gently overflow. The purpose of buffer areas is to manage the existing storm drain, so it's already "engineered" to provide for overflow conditions; slowing down the water and allowing it to percolate through the soil. A ditch speed water up, and won't hold nearly as much water as, well, a field.

This is it. The purpose of a drainage lot like this is to slow drainage down, not speed it up. Stormwater is filtered through the vegetation and soil so that: 1) less water enters the civil stormwater system, which means there's less water requiring treatment 2) less erosion occurs 3) what water does enter the civil stormwater system (which eventually goes back into streams, lakes, oceans, and other natural bodies of water) has less pollutants in it.

It used to be that if you had a large building project, you could tightline all your roof and hardscaping area drains straight into the civil stormwater system (which is very good for drainage!), but no longer. For most large projects I've worked on in the last few years, city engineering departments have required a stormwater retention area (i.e. vacant lot) or something similar to slow down and filter runoff. Drain pipes can no longer be connected right to the storm drains--the water must flow across the site for a certain distance first, which cleans the water, and reduces its volume through evaporation and soil absorption.
posted by LionIndex at 10:26 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is this the official editorial stance of the New York Times?

I've been suggesting for years that they make one minor change to the little box in the upper right corner of the frontpage:

All the news views that's fit to print.
posted by JaredSeth at 10:29 AM on July 10, 2008


It's not your backyard. Your backyard is the land behind your house that you own.

Yup.

I am left wondering how they got to the point of pretty much finishing their park before they were stopped. Didn't the neighbors notice the land being cleared?

I bet the neighbors were perfectly fine with the land being cleared. When groups of teenagers began showing up and began making noise while enjoying themselves - well, there are limits. Who wouldn't prefer a weed-choked, poison-ivy habitat to having actual unsupervised teenagers having fun?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:30 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and the kids should move to Boston.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:37 AM on July 10, 2008


I really can't imagine having the sense of entitlement you'd need to commandeer public space the way these kids did.

Where I grew up there was an empty lot that we used to play at about a mile from my house. It was around five acres and was bordered along north side by old railroad tracks. It was called "the dump" because the lot was full of construction debris, concrete blocks, plywood sheets, 2x4’s, old culverts, steel roofing and the like. There were also three deep pits in the center of the field into which people would occasionally throw old appliances. This was the ideal place for a kid. We’d hang out in the old train cars, play laser tag among the debris, build forts and countless other things we could think up.

One summer we got the idea to build a bike track around the pits. It was insane. The track was like a figure eight but with three loops that went around and through the pits. There were jumps everywhere and it was heaven for my adolescent self. Looking back it was amazing that nobody was ever seriously hurt. My body was also probably in the best shape it’s ever been over that summer. We’d ride that track for hours every day trying to top each other.

But it didn’t last. Towards the end of that summer the owner spotted us there one afternoon and came after us with a shotgun. Never before had I seen him at the lot but he must have noticed our track and been keeping an eye out for us delinquent vandals.

The next summer we built an underground fort so we could hide if he ever came back while we were there, it even had a periscope. But it just wasn’t the same. In between the summers the owner had bulldozed our track and pushed most of the construction debris into the pits, filling them in. They also pulled out the railroad tracks so our rail car hangouts disappeared. These days that plot of land is divided up and covered with double wide mobile homes.

At the time we never even thought about who owned the land, just that it wasn’t being used by anybody. And I certainly think my childhood experiences would have been poorer without being able to play at "the dump."
posted by Tenuki at 10:38 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


emjaybee writes "The 'drainage' things seems iffy to me, too. It's not a wetland; how does a weedy lot help drainage?"

Drainage isn't really a seriuos problem around here as much of the land is sloped. However in Calgary many of the recreational fields are well below the surrounding road grade. In some cases several metres below. Underneath the fields are networks of large weeping tile tied into the storm drain network. During times of intense rail fall the fields are designed to flood via the storm drains to prevent overwhelming the system down stream. Probably not what was done here but if the field is a local low point it could be acting that way in an informal manner.

Miko writes "Nothing's being glossed over - in insanely overvalued Greenwich, that is a fairly normal price for a buildable lot. The only problem I have is that it's not 'worth' anything as cash right now; it's town property and, apparently, not for sale. It's only worth its assessed value as a public asset."

Aye, but the claim is made that the lot is there for drainage and therefor wouldn't be buildable. Which is why I suspect we're not getting the whole story. Who is going to pay 1.25 million for a lot that can't be built on with, apparently, NIMBYzilla neighbours on all sides preventing any open air use? It would be interesting to see if there are in fact any zoning, deed, convent or easement restrictions on the lot restricting it to drainage.
posted by Mitheral at 10:38 AM on July 10, 2008


As is so often the case, Miko hit this one out of the ballpark.

Oh, and one other thing - The Field of Dreams comparison is totally bogus: In that piece of fiction, the hero built the ballpark on his own land.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:39 AM on July 10, 2008


Funny, I was just thinking that if someone in Canada tried to shut down a bunch of kids playing road hockey, that person would've just signed their own death warrant. Send the party poopers elsewhere!

That's right.

Car!!
posted by orange swan at 10:50 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Miko did a great summary of this. Greenwich is a lightening rode for a lot of middle class / upper middle class issues.

I grew up in greenwich, I just talked to my sister who lives there still (regrettably, she is trying to move out also).

The field is in the wooded area north of St. Catherines Church, to between Riverside Lane and the water, so the drainage issue is actually correct.

My biggest complaint: in that google link you can see FOUR public baseball diamonds they could go to and play instead. I don't know why the kids would not want to ride down Riverside Ave, stopping at Ada's candy store (who just passed away recently, she still sold swedish fish for a penny, and it was the only place where you could still entertain a 10 year old with 12 cents, it is where I learned basic algebra trying to optimize my sugar per penny intact), before going to Eastern Middle School to play on their TWO fields, or if that was busy, going to Riverside elementary to play at theres. Or they could go to Binney Park. Or if they got together with their parents, they could go over to Greenwich Highschool's fields (not on the map) that are illuminated at night in the summer so folks can play sports there.

So why did they need to build the wiffle park again?
posted by mrzarquon at 10:56 AM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


More on Ada

I was home from college and stopped in to buy some soda, and she still remembered me, even though the last time I was there was when I was 15.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:59 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


mrzarquon writes "So why did they need to build the wiffle park again?"

Are all those places a kilometre or more away and on the other side of either water or a freeway?
posted by Mitheral at 11:05 AM on July 10, 2008


So why did they need to build the wiffle park again?

Because building your own whiffle ball park is fun?
posted by oneirodynia at 11:06 AM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


As is so often the case, Miko hit this one out of the ballpark.

Ditto that
posted by a3matrix at 11:10 AM on July 10, 2008


> So why did they need to build the wiffle park again?

A Wiffle ball is designed specifically for small spaces, and the ball doesn't travel far when thrown or hit. The rules page of the Wiffle website recommends 60 feet for a homerun hit in Wiffleball, which would be the distance from the pitcher's rubber to home plate on a regulation baseball diamond.
posted by ardgedee at 11:13 AM on July 10, 2008


Actually, to follow up, there are five fields within view of that area, I missed one (actually a lot of the field spaces have multiple fields on them, I know binney has atleast 3 if not more).

So the towns reaction of "we built freaking fields for you to play on, why did you have to build your own?" isn't exactly out of line.

Well, maybe the kids went to Brunswick, so never knew about any fields except theirs near their school and up at the back country location.

I get the motivation to go and build something yourself, and I think a creative solution would be the town finding park space that has gone to weeds that could be turned over to the kids to build stuff on. But the town would never go for that, the teen center was all but gutted when I was there, and for the longest time the chief of police argued that turning the lights on at the GHS fields would actually cause vandalism and drug use at night. Really? A large illuminated field next to the busiest road in Greenwich is going to become THE place for people to start doing drugs?

On the plus side, the kids could have their parents throwing them keggers[pdf], paying for security, and settling out of court when the 13 year old girl ends up at the hospital with rohypnol in her system and alcohol poisoning.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:14 AM on July 10, 2008


This is it. The purpose of a drainage lot like this is to slow drainage down, not speed it up. Stormwater is filtered through the vegetation and soil so that: 1) less water enters the civil stormwater system, which means there's less water requiring treatment 2) less erosion occurs 3) what water does enter the civil stormwater system (which eventually goes back into streams, lakes, oceans, and other natural bodies of water) has less pollutants in it.

How is this any different than collecting water in a ditch?
posted by smackwich at 11:17 AM on July 10, 2008


Are all those places a kilometre or more away and on the other side of either water or a freeway?

Crossing 95 is easy, there are lots of bridges (riverside ave, a straight shot south from the field where they are, has very wide sidewalks), granted going west is a bitch because there is a steep hill, but considering my friends and I would ride our bikes the same distance (it is .8 miles from st. catherines to eastern middle school, the closest ball park, according to google maps, but much shorter by bike) or more every summer, to get to the same parks for baseball games (I was in little league).

Not to mention I walked the longer distance to get to riverside school (my elementary school) when I was younger.

I mean, yeah it is cool to have your very own wiffleball park. But I can understand why the town is asking them to take it down. What gets me is the parents protecting their special snowflakes over this, and demanding access to the parks, when they are probably the same people who protested the lawsuit over access to greenwich point.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:24 AM on July 10, 2008


Fear, litigation, and greed. These are now the American values. Baseball, apple pie, and family are just marketing.

Yeah, see I think you've just bought the Republican marketing fiction that there was a time in America that fear, litigation and greed weren't the American Values (TM). 'Cause you know killin' injuns and clearcutting from coast to coast was done to make more room for more apple orchards and baseball diamonds.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:29 AM on July 10, 2008


meant "demanding access to the parks" as in "let our kids build this wherever they want"

the Greenwich Point issue was a big problem, because it was hard to support limited access (it is an estuary and a great park, and crowding would ruin a lot of that) without sounding like an elitest, racist prick. I think switch to a paid pass is a happy medium, as local town money goes to support the beach and the park, so as residents they have in fact already paid for their pass.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:29 AM on July 10, 2008


Greenwich Meanie Time
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:34 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


in that google link you can see FOUR public baseball diamonds they could go to and play instead.

Are you confident that any of those diamonds are available at any given time? My friends and I used to gather to play softball on the weekends. Usually, we'd go to the back of a school in the town most of us grew up in. There were four diamonds at the corners of a big field. We had to stop going there when a soccer league from the city got a permit to play there. Their soccer game just had to be centered on the intersection of the four outfields, so no baseball or softball was possible. We never did find another reliably open ball field, and eventually stopped playing.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:44 AM on July 10, 2008


I can say confidently that there is enough space for someone to find a corner to play a game of wiffle ball, even if the actual diamonds are being used for baseball / softball.

binney park has fields for soccer and baseball, and then just east of there is the civic center with another two parks. not to mention the space in front of riverside school, while having trees, is open enough for kids to play in the afternoon.

in short, there are plenty spaces to find and play wiffle ball in greenwich at any given time, and I am sure the kids could coordinate over the cellphones that I know they all have. As Miko said, the bigger thing is that the kids and parents have decided to "fight the man" in a case that is convenient for them.

Also, those school fields are probably treated and sprayed for deer ticks. After 7 years of dealing with Lyme disease, I know where I would want to spend my time.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:54 AM on July 10, 2008


Oh, and the kids should move to Boston.

Yeah ... and they can take note (if it's still there) of Rick Ferroli's Wiffle Ball Fenway Park which he built in his Mom's backyard , "complete with mound, batting cage, outfield fences and, in left-field, a scale-model replica of the Wall....Twenty-one years later he constructed a 15-foot-high wall of plywood and secured it to the back of his mother's house....Built into the right section of the Wall, which is painted green, is an electronic scoreboard made by Ferroli. A screened porch serves as both the scorer's booth and VIP box. The outfield distances are posted on the fences: Centerfield is 100 feet from the plate; down the line in right is 85 feet; and down the line in left, 66 feet. The infield corners are marked with orange traffic cones, and the pitcher's mound, 48 feet from home plate, slopes at a major league angle. Ten 300-watt lights illuminate night games. The waist-high centerfield and rightfield fences carry ads for MARSHFIELD FAMOUS PIZZA RTE. 139 OPEN TILL 2 AM and PHEASANT WOOD LANDSCAPING—PLANT DESIGN SPECIALISTS."

The 'nutmeggers' can also visit the New Hampshire family which has recreated Fenway Park in their backyard.
posted by ericb at 11:57 AM on July 10, 2008


So why did they need to build the wiffle park again?

For fun? To complete a project they all got psyched about? To busy themselves on (to them) otherwise boring summer days?
posted by ericb at 12:01 PM on July 10, 2008


This thread has brought me back, very indirectly, to the illicit BMX track abutting Wick Field in Milwaukee, way back in the day.

That was the shit.
posted by everichon at 12:19 PM on July 10, 2008


I keep seeing people say the kids should use an existing park or facility.
Speaking for Worcester, MA, that sort of thing is in direct violation of the cities parks and recreation ordinances. While people often like to say things along the lines of 'parks are for families' what they really mean is 'parks are for generating revenue'. Use of public spaces in most cities and towns requires a permit, which would require being old enough to enter into a contract with a municipality and remove any sense of spontaneity.
posted by paxton at 12:27 PM on July 10, 2008


All kids deserve a Huck Finn summer. We perhaps have lost our collective minds about our overscheduled, overstressed young.

The former statement is obviously a little crazy, but the later isn't so much. It's possible the Times article misreads the mood and doesn't talk enough about specific problems the park causes, but if they really are having this much trouble figuring out how to bring this project (and the kids) inside of the community, I think it's indicative of something wrong with the community itself. Having rec areas that double as drainage is not necessarily an insurmountable problem. Getting the kids a permit while explaining how and why they could have done it is not an insurmountable problem. Figuring out acceptable noise levels is not an insurmountable problem.

All kids don't deserve a Huck Finn summer, but healthier communities can probably figure out how to better handle kids who do the work to make one -- even if they start clumsily (like most of us do) by community standards.
posted by weston at 12:29 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


a 12-foot-tall green monster
Nothing makes the property values soar like a view of the back of a 12-foot plywood fence.

He pointed out that the baseball field wouldn't have taken up more than an acre of land.
Fenway is the smallest park in the majors. Its smallest field dimension is 302 feet. If you just assume a box 300 feet on a side, that's 90,000 sq. ft. An acre is 43,560 sq ft, less than half the size of the assumed box. The field on an average park will be about 3 acres.
posted by joaquim at 12:37 PM on July 10, 2008


Metric acre, obviously.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:45 PM on July 10, 2008


paxton- the parks i mentioned have never stopped me as a kid from playing in them, or for people to put together some adhoc games with some friends.

While there may be a broader scope here, I am trying to add some very location specific details for this specific instance.

Also, I am asking why they NEED to build the wiffle ball park. Not why did they, or what their motivation was. But why do they (or their parents) believe they have some god (or dollar) given right to build that, right there, other than "because it was fun." They built it where they shouldn't have, they got to play some fun games there, but now it has to be torn down because well, it shouldn't be there.

I may come off as condemning them for building it, but really I am more frustrated with this becoming a media circus over special snowflakes rights.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:45 PM on July 10, 2008


"Fuck you, too" to whoever said 'fuck Greenwich'. I don't feel like looking for the post and pasting it.
posted by Zambrano at 1:03 PM on July 10, 2008


everichon : to the illicit BMX track abutting Wick Field in Milwaukee, way back in the day.

I had completely forgotten about that place, it was the shit. I also seem to remember that Hawthorn Glen was the site of many other improvised sporting events.
posted by quin at 1:07 PM on July 10, 2008


All kids deserve a Huck Finn summer.

So...all kids deserve to run away from their abusive, alcoholic fathers and spend their days on the river with an escaped slave?

What the fuck, New York Times?
posted by neroli at 1:57 PM on July 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


(Although maybe if the kids in CT did that, fewer people would complain.)
posted by neroli at 1:58 PM on July 10, 2008


Update from my dad about it:

This spot is in Riverside off of Riverside LANE, which is North of the
Post Road on the way to Stephen & Sandy's, and over looks the Mianus.
Needless to say there is a great deal of debate.

I think it's a great use of a neglected piece of town property. The
kids have created a useable field for them and the community. Most of
the complaints are coming from the immediate neighbors who have had
the use/view of the town property and not had to pay for it.

-DAD
posted by mrzarquon at 2:08 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can someone please explain to me the reasons behind the demand for "SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILENCE" that people have when they come home from work? I work too (a physically demanding job) and do homework all weekend, but the sound of kids playing outside and the neighbors having a party has never bothered me.

I'm 25. Is this a generational thing?
posted by Avenger at 2:17 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I work too (a physically demanding job)

I work in a socially demanding job, which is why I like to come home to relative quiet and be away from the constant nattering of human voices for a few hours. I don't think it's crazy to want a quiet neighborhood, but I do think it's a shame not to be reasonable about it. A ball game now and then isn't the kind of neighborhood noise I would find objectionable at all. And I agree with the arguments of those who say if total silence is what's important to you, make sure you buy a house with a buffer zone around it. Living next to town property means accepting the risk that it could be put to any number of differing uses over the years. Better a ball game than a transformer station.
posted by Miko at 2:22 PM on July 10, 2008


I'm not sure how many of you are confused, but they didn't build a baseball field. They aren't playing baseball. They can't play wiffleball on a baseball or softball diamond.

A Wiffleball field is absolutely tiny compared to even a little league diamond.

you could probably fit their entire feild in the infield of a baseball diamond.
posted by Megafly at 3:05 PM on July 10, 2008


Is "whiffleball" anything like a "rainbow party"?
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:17 PM on July 10, 2008


After talking to my Dad about it, and thinking about it, and putting in perspective the area, I will have to rescind my statement specifically saying it has got to be torn down. It appears while the NY Times article is making it an us vs them argument, a lot of people in the town (just not the people next to the field) actually like it, as it is making something useful out of the space, that was before, as my dad said above, a freebie for the folks living next to it.

That being said, you could easily make a stand by wiffleball field at any of the parks I had mentioned (as in there is lots of nice grassy space, you may not be able to have a mound or a green monster).

I was originally reacting to the OMG precious snowflakes defense of the parents, but really, I'd rather see the NIMBY folks just deal with it. If it wasn't public land, it would be a 5 story McMansion by now.

I don't see anything wrong with the kids volunteering to keep it clean, and maybe raising some money to dig some drainage ditches to compensate from the lost ground cover, etc.

But really, the bigger disappointment about this is that the noxious fumes from the sewage plant apparently is less important for the readers then zomg rich people in greenwich.
posted by mrzarquon at 4:07 PM on July 10, 2008


Need to send those little fuckers to Gitmo.
posted by zzazazz at 4:52 PM on July 10, 2008


The Times: Manufacturing Dissent. Kids have been building things in vacant lots to the lament of neighbors for as long as land has been sold. Just go watch the movie Sandlot. As a kid in Brooklyn we were constantly building things in vacant lots and getting chased away when we were found out. The only thing different in this story is that it happened in Greenwich where every resident is either a lawyer or has one on retainer - big fucking deal.

It seems every other story I read in the NY Times these days is about the plight of the wealthy. This at a time when the middle class is getting squeezed from both sides. Maybe if the NY Times didn't pay their writers enough to live in Westchester and Greenwich they'd actually report on the lives of the middle class instead of just paying them lip service.
posted by any major dude at 5:05 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


As to the noise issue, no, it's not a generational thing, not absolutely, anyway. I can dimly remember being 25, and the noise from a ball game wouldn't bother me even today. Also, I assume there are no lights illuminating the whiffle field, so they aren't going to play past dusk. In Connecticut, that's what - 9PM at the latest?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:06 PM on July 10, 2008


Wasn't their land to build on; seems pretty straightforward to me.
Sure creativity and yadda yadda, but they needed to find a place and ask permission first. I don't see why the city should get hate when these kids basically violated some pretty primary social etiquette by using something they hadn't asked permission to use.
posted by Billegible at 7:05 PM on July 10, 2008


I guess they're free to spend their money however they want, but you would have been pretty hard pressed to convince me to spend $200 to paint a make-shift wall green.

When I was that age, I personally blew $250 on fireworks one 4th of July. That was a whole paycheck, IIRC.

Not saying it was the best decision, but we still had a great time.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:23 PM on July 10, 2008


I don't know about you stuffed shirts, but the first thing I need to do after a long day at the office is rock the fuck out. Loudly. I'm noisy til I sleep, and I sometimes snore while I'm doing that. I wanted to say: "I'll be quiet when I'm dead," but I'm hoping for prolonged, continuous and explosive decomposition. Exhume at your own risk.
posted by Eideteker at 8:55 PM on July 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


My community had a tiff this year over something similar. We call our drainage areas "greenbelts" -- they're basically all the ravines and so on, set aside at time of development. (Not unique, but not universal, either.) Trouble is, these are really not parkland, although some of them have a bike trail -- they're drainage. Some of the residents abutting the greenbelt think of it as an extended backyard, which is OK to a point. Some actually installed expensive gardens beyond their property lines.

As I said at MeCha, "Golly, it's a real-life tragedy of the commons! How often does that happen?" Given that we have so few commons in the US. Anyway, this wiffle ball field is little different from the guy who thinks he's entitled to graze his sheep on the commons more often than the next guy, and the community is going to react to this abuse or face more.
posted by dhartung at 11:27 PM on July 10, 2008


in that google link you can see FOUR public baseball diamonds they could go to and play instead.

Uh,hello,THREE. Those diamonds look suspiciously alike. I'm betting one of them's photoshopped.
posted by harhailla.harhaluuossa at 5:01 AM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, when I wanted peace and quiet I moved out of the city and into a mobile home in the middle of the woods.

I didn't buy a huge house on a tiny lot with the expectation that my fortress of solitude was complete and no one would ever inconvenience me with their own living. I mean, I still expect no one to bother me, but that's a more reasonable request when your nearest neighbor is a few acres away.

Mostly, I see the suburban entitlement syndrome at work here. It's the same reason people have deed-restrictions and gated communities. So no one ever puts a toe out of line.
posted by threeturtles at 7:21 AM on July 11, 2008


I'm 25. Is this a generational thing?


Yes. See if you like coming home from work to the rowdy din of a crowd of 40 yelling teenagers when you're 38.
posted by applemeat at 4:22 PM on July 11, 2008


Town Only memories linger at little field of dreams:
A passing breeze gently shook an American flag on a patch of town-owned dirt on Riverside Lane, where an odd assortment of scented candles, yard tools and wiffle ball bats remained to be picked up.

Enroute to a Wiffle ball tournament, Justin Provenzano, 17, made a quick stop to see the remains of the dismantled Wiffle ball field he helped create with other teens.

"I'm angry," Provenzano said. "We've kept playing Wiffle ball other places but it's not the same."

After a two week battle between a neighborhood group of teens and neighboring homeowners over the existence of a Wiffle ball field kids built on town land, town workers carted the field away on Friday morning.

The town has offered the youths an alternative of using a field at the International School of Dundee for the remainder of the summer for Wiffle ball.

The field included a plywood replica of Fenway Park's Green Monster, bleachers, a foul pole, and a back stop which had replaced a dense overgrowth in the town owned lot.

"I've learned that even if 99 percent of the people in town want something one percent can stop it," Provenzano said.

Set aside as a drainage area between homes, First Selectman Peter Tesei said last week that the property posed liability issues.

An exposed drain behind home plate could result in injury for the teens, and neighboring properties could be damaged by wiffle-ballers.

Yesterday Robert Bellantoni, of Riverside Lane, questioned the legitimacy of the drainage and liability issues raised, stating the latter could have easily been resolved with waivers.
His son Timothy and other teens who put up the field should be proud of their efforts, he said.

"I understand the town insures the property whether it is used or not so what is the difference?" Bellantoni said. "The town has slammed the door in these kids faces and what kind of message does that send?"
posted by Kattullus at 7:08 AM on July 21, 2008


"I've learned that even if 99 percent of the people in town want something one percent can stop it," Provenzano said.

And thus begins a life in politics...?
posted by Miko at 7:18 AM on July 21, 2008


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