Vol. 12, No. 10 May 20 - June 2, 1999



A Real Tour for City Planners Voting on Plant

In less than two weeks, on June 1, the City Planning Commission will vote on the Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) proposal to dig up the Norwood section of Van Cortlandt Park for a filtration plant. It is the most important vote yet in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

The commissioners reportedly visited the site recently. We don't know what they saw or how long they spent here, but we doubt DEP officials, who led the tour, gave them the insider's tour of Norwood or showed them the many ways the plant's construction would devastate the community across the street.

So the task lies to us. If the commissioners make the trip again, here's what we would show them.

The tour would start at St. Ann's School on Bainbridge Avenue or at the pre-school at Mosholu Montefiore Community Center. As we entered a random classroom, we'd ask for a show of hands. How many children have asthma? Chances are, because the Bronx has one of the highest asthma rates in the country, many little hands would reach for the sky. How many of you play in the Saturn Playground in Van Cortlandt Park? Again, a forest of tiny fingers would dart upward; the 3-year-old playground is a popular recreational area for many youngsters and their families. The planners should just assume that none of these children, whether they have asthma or not, will ever play at their playground again if the filter plant is built. No responsible parent would let them. DEP assurances that construction will have no impact on the kids, playing at most 200 feet away from the digging and blasting, are absurd and offensive.

Then, we'd take the two-minute walk to the playground, the one that was built in one day by the Saturn car dealership and community residents. We'd walk past the flower beds, planted by neighborhood residents who have taken ownership of their corner of the park (for years neglected by the city) and over to the play area to watch the children. We'd ask each commissioner if any of them would allow this construction if it were at a park in their own neighborhood, across the street from where they lived.

Next stop on the Norwood News tour, about a 30-second walk, would be lunch at a family's home on Gun Hill Road, right across the street from the park in the Knox-Gates section. From there we would look out the window and ask the planners to imagine a decade of noise and dust, and views of a beautiful park reduced to a dusty crater. The construction site is a mere 500 feet from any window on that block. Then we'd ask them to imagine no one living in that building, or on that block, any more. Because that may very well happen too -- people, weary of noise and a declining quality of life, moving out, and no one in their right mind moving in.

Then we'd go for a walk down Jerome Avenue and quiz merchants about the traffic situation. Would more traffic help you're business? we'd ask. Would it be more difficult to attract new customers if parking was even more difficult to come by? These may seem like silly questions with obvious answers, but the city has not even communicated with local business leaders to discuss these issues.

The city planners may have seen the site but they have not seen Norwood, what it's like to live here, and how much we could lose if they decide to vote in favor of this destructive proposal.

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