Vol. 14, No.6   March 22 - April 4, 2001


Part of Oval to Get Facelift
Commish: $5M Needed for Full Restoration


What's Getting Done...
Erosion control and some stonework
on the western side of the park

And What's Not?
Replacement of paving stones and 
restoration of pathways in rest of park.

The western section of Williamsbridge Oval Park in Norwood will be getting a long awaited makeover made possible by $1,500,000 appropriated by Councilwoman June Eisland over the last two years. The work will include resurfacing the tennis courts and addressing the erosion on the western slopes of the park. Some of the five-sided stones called hex blocks will be replaced on paths behind the courts, and the stone wall and steps joining the upper and lower level of that section of the park will also be repaired.

Bronx Parks Commissioner Bill Castro said however that a comprehensive restoration of the Oval's paths, fences and entrances would take about $5 million over three years, and would depend largely on additional City Council funding not currently in the pipeline.

Though there have been recent improvements to the park including new playgrounds, reconstruction of a small portion of the fencing surrounding the park, and renovations on the park house, including a new roof and windows, Castro said the Oval is a large park that "did not get any real work done to it for many years," which is why it still has a long way to go before it is fully restored.

Margaret Groarke, president of the Mosholu Woodlawn South Community Coalition, said, that after meeting with Castro and Eisland last June, her group thought that the crumbling concrete and stonework supporting the fencing around the entire park was going to be repaired. (Disclosure: Groarke is married to Norwood News editor Jordan Moss.) About 150 feet of the fencing work was done recently, but Castro said there is no money available to do the rest of the Oval perimeter fencing now.

Elizabeth Cooke, executive director of the Parks Council, a nonprofit group that is spearheading a citywide campaign to get the city to set aside one percent of the city budget for park maintenance, said the Oval is an example of why the city needs to dedicate money for maintenance in parks rather than just capital projects. 

"If the Parks Department had one percent of the city operating budget, then the borough commissioner would have adequate resources for maintenance, security and programs for the Oval, Seton Falls Park, St. James Park and all the playgrounds in between," Cooke said. 

Park patrons in wealthier communities have been able to fill the gap with private fundraising, she said. "The needs of communities that don't have that kind of private discretionary wealth are left on hold," Cooke said. "We are hopeful that in this summer's elections New Yorkers in communities throughout the city will join us in telling candidates that this policy has gone too far, it's unacceptable and there has to be reform." 

The Oval work will get under way in July and continue over a nine-month period. The budget for the project is $1.2 million. The remaining $300,000, from the $1.5 million appropriation, is for soft costs like architectural designs and cost overruns, Castro said.

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