As they talked during a Franklin Square Little League game about two years ago, Marisa Filardo and Joel DiGillio realized they had a problem that needed to be fixed. Filardo, an educator, and DiGillio, a member of the Little League’s board, were frustrated with the perpetually poor conditions at Rath Park.
Ever since, the two have been demanding change at the neighborhood park, and Filardo has spearheaded a new push to get town and local officials to provide proper upgrades and renovations.
“We put out a survey and got over 600 responses about what people want for our park,” Filardo said.
The survey revealed that residents wanted improvements for the children’s playground, sprinklers for the field and repairs to the fences, which are broken and missing parts in several areas. Together with DiGillio, Filardo has been developing plans for a three- to five-year revitalization project for the park. DiGillio said that the park needed more attention form the Town of Hempstead, which was evident when this year’s Little League season was pushed back by two weeks because of field conditions.
“The field goal post was still up in April even though football ended in November,” DiGillio said.
The conditions of the field also worried New York Assemblyman Edward Ra, who comes out to Rath Park at the start of each season for both Little League and Franklin Square Warriors football teams. He said because the field is used year round, it has no time to recover and needs more than just aboveground improvements. Ra has met with Filardo and DiGillio to try to get funding from the state.
“It’s a park district, so it’s paid for locally, and the improvement could affect resident’s taxes, which is why it needs to be a community conversation,” Ra said.
Ra added that help from the Town of Hempstead, which oversees the park, is necessary for its revitalization; but Filardo said that the town has not always been so helpful. After Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman sent out a letter to Franklin Square residents in June describing the multiple upgrades done at Rath Park, Filardo and DiGillio explained that those upgrades were superficial and that some were still incomplete.
“It keeps saying what they’re going to do, things they’ve promised the Little League for years, things that don’t get done,” DiGillio said of the letter.
Blakeman’s office did not return multiple requests for comment.
But even though Filardo still calls the conditions of the field atrocious, the biggest concern is with the lack of security at the park. She described how multiple parents and residents have talked to her about unlawful activities at the park, including problems with squatters and drug use.
Officer Jorge Diaz, of the Nassau County Police Department’s Problem-Oriented Policing unit, told resident during a Franklin Square Civics Association meeting in May that police make frequent arrests at the park because of people smoking marijuana. Filardo said she has even been made aware of several instances were needles were found at the park.
As she met with officials from Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen’s office recently, Filardo now hopes to present the town’s latest plan at a Franklin Square town hall meeting later this summer. The presentation will go over the plan’s budget, layout and financial options. Filardo welcomes all Franklin Square residents to attend the meeting and voice what they want for the park.
“We want to make sure that everyone is heard,” Filardo said. “This isn’t just my park, this is Franklin Square’s park.”