By Carol Bartold, Senior Reporter
Jun. 5, 2019: The only remaining open area at Westchester County’s Scout Field will remain undisturbed for the time being. The county’s plan to reconfigure Upper Scout Field to house a soccer field while preserving some open space remains in limbo. The decision rests with Westchester County Executive George Latimer, and he has stated that he wants to get a clear idea of the best use of the park for everyone concerned.
Under the terms of an inter-municipal agreement (IMA) unanimously approved by the Westchester County Board of Legislators in 2016, during the Rob Astorino administration, the Town of Eastchester was authorized to operate and maintain the soccer field for a five-year term with the option to renew the agreement at the town’s discretion. As approved, the resolution states that the IMA would grant exclusive use of the soccer field to Eastchester schools and all use and control of Upper Scout Field to the Town of Eastchester.
When Latimer assumed the office and inherited the agreement from Astorino, he contacted the various Scout Field constituencies and did a walk-through of the park. “I will continue dialogues with those parties,” he said. “Is this an either/or situation, or is there a way to harmonize the desires of the various groups? That’s what I want to learn.”
Scout Field lies within the jurisdictions of Westchester County, the City of Yonkers, the City of Mount Vernon, the Town of Eastchester, and the Village of Bronxville.
Although requests for proposals (RFP) have been issued for a soccer field, a move that has raised concern among some interested parties and park patrons, Latimer emphasized that no contracts have been authorized. He explained that the RFPs will give the county an idea of how much the project might cost. Under the terms of the IMA, the county agreed to bond $1.9 million for Upper Scout Field improvements required to construct the field.
Yonkers city councilman Mike Breen, whose District #5 includes Scout Field, stated that the city is concerned with the proposal’s permitting process, which could develop the open area into a controlled space that will be locked, limiting accessibility. “We also have an issue with Eastchester as the managing entity,” he said. In April 2018, the Yonkers City Council approved a resolution opposing the county’s development plan.
Friends of Scout Field, a citizen-based group that has organized to oppose the reconfiguration and development of Upper Scout Field, has expressed concern that the plan would destroy the ecological environment, upset wildlife, and endanger the Bronx River Watershed.
“We feel the county board of legislators was derelict in their duties in voting unanimously for the development plan,” said John Torres, a member of the group. “They made the mistake of approving the plan without knowing all the facts.” He added that the board has kept this citizen group at arm’s length.
Several group members have met with George Latimer and left the discussion feeling that he wants to be fair and equitable to everyone concerned. “He’s hearing our concerns and that’s important,” Joan Aracich noted.
According to Susan Burkat, also of Friends of Scout Field, the argument that a soccer field in this particular location is needed is a false argument. “There are at least twelve other places for kids to play organized sports in the county.” She pointed out that bird watchers, parents with small children, and dog owners are among area residents who enjoy Upper Scout Field’s open space.
John Torres stressed that the Friends of Scout Field movement to save the park has a strong group of supporters who stand in solidarity to preserve the park as open space and stop Upper Scout Field’s reconfiguration. “We’re confident we can stop this, but we can’t be complacent,” he said.
For County Executive George Latimer, the real issue is determining the best use of the park for the greatest number of people.
Pictured here: Scout Field
Photo by N. Bower