'Groundbreaking' update for Malverne's Whelan Field


On Constitution Lane, just off Ocean Avenue, lies an empty lot and a baseball field overgrown from disuse. By this time next year, however, the area will look much different. The Village of Malverne has begun a $6.3 million project to transform the area, called Whelan Field, into a park that will double as a stormwater retention area.

Planning for the project began around four years ago, when Mayor Tim Sullivan, a village trustee at the time, was looking for a way to utilize state funds.

“The idea was to come up with an environmentally friendly project that met all the goals of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery at the time,” Sullivan recalled. “And they were to mitigate against future storm flooding, provide education about environmental conservatorship and provide public access to the waterways.”

The creek that runs near the field, called Pine Brook Stream, will be revitalized. The brush and debris surrounding it will be removed and the area will be shaped into a stormwater-retention area to reduce the flooding Malverne experiences in heavy rains. The project is designed to be “environmentally friendly and ecologically sensitive,” village officials said in a statement, to support the preservation of the natural wetlands near Malverne that are key to the area’s ecosystem.

After that, the village will overhaul Whelan Field, adding two new baseball fields, picnic areas, a dog park and a half-mile-long pedestrian walkway around the park, which will feature “fitness components and educational opportunities,” officials said.

The village’s ceremonial groundbreaking for the project, on Monday, was years in the making. Sullivan found out on his honeymoon three and a half years ago that the project had been approved, and the state would be sending Malverne $7 million to fund it — the largest grant the village had ever received, then Mayor Keith Corbett said at the time. A bulldozer has now taken up residence at Whelan Field to begin the transformation.

“I think it was a great design,” Corbett told those who were gathered in the lot on Monday. “It was a lot of hard work of a lot of people, everyone here.”

Once renovated, the park will be a big step up from the empty field it is now. Sullivan, who grew up in Malverne, remembers when he and his brothers played baseball there.

“It was literally a sandlot,” Sullivan said. “There were no roads, there was no concession stand. It was two backstops and a couple of stands. We were all running around down here, picking up garbage from the creek.”

But soon, the Malverne Little League will have brand new fields to play on.

“It rains,” said Pat Rudden, president of the Little League, “and now, instead of having a couple games on one field, a couple games on another field, you’re taking eight games a day and trying to reschedule them during the week, with one field. It was a challenge.”

“This field is a little larger for the older kids,” Mike Morgan, the league’s Field Maintenance Officer gesturing behind him. “This is the only field that we could use. The other field we have, the kids are too big to play on it. They have to play on this one. So we’ll be getting this bigger field back again.”

State Sen. Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick, who is from Malverne, and Assemblyman Brian Curran were instrumental in securing the state funds for the project. The money is coming from the state Office of Resilient Homes and Communities, which was created in 2022 to take over the work of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery.

Whelan Field is a beloved community landmark, Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said, and the improvements will ensure it stays that way.

“My father played there when it was still known as Alley Pond,” Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said, “and I have fond memories of watching my children play by the creek during our visits for sporting events.”

“This investment ensures that Whelan Field will continue to be a place where families can create lasting memories,” she added.

As well, Nassau County Legislator Bill Gaylor is helping Malverne purchase the land from the county, instead of leasing it, as it has since the 1950s. There has been a movement, Sullivan said, to transfer land from the county back to villages to increase local ownership. Malverne has petitioned the county for ownership of Whelan Field, and the county is currently considering the petition.

The architectural and engineering firm H2M, based in Melville, is spearheading the park’s redesign. The project is set to be completed in eight months.