Vol. 13, No. 7 April 6 - 19, 2000


THE STATE OF OUR PARKS -- First in a Series

New Commitment to Poe Park Paves Way for Renovation Plan


elen Hamer thinks it all started with the playground. In June of 1998, Saturn ofxpoepark.jpg (17059 bytes) the Bronx donated parts and labor, and with 100 local volunteers, a playground was built in Poe Park in just one day. From then on, good news seemed to snowball.

Hamer, president of the Ravens, a Poe Park volunteer group founded in 1998, has seen the park get boosts from volunteerism, from funding allocated by two Bronx elected officials, and from the diligent work of the Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation (FBHC), a local nonprofit that owns and manages 70 apartment buildings in the area.

Just last year, FBHC gathered support for a renovation proposal that calls for wrought- iron benches and fencing, new bathrooms and landscaping. FBHC also requested a monument honoring Edgar Allen Poe, the popular poet and horror author who used to live on the premises. The proposal will soon become reality thanks to an $80,000 grant from Borough President Fernando Ferrer and $800,000 allocated by Councilman Jose Rivera. Renovations are set to begin in August.

FBHC has also developed a Phase II of its renovation plan, which proposes a Digital Visitors Center in the park so visitors can learn more about Poe. The center would include a multi-purpose room with digital display technology, bathrooms and room for an office and exhibit storage. Pat Logan of FBHC said Ferrer, Rivera and Congressman Eliot Engel are considering providing financial support for the plan. The Ravens, which have about a dozen core members, do their part to keep Poe Park in top shape by sponsoring events, by planting and by helping out in city clean-up efforts. FBHC and the Ravens also work closely with the 52nd Precinct to ensure consistent police coverage of the area.

"I have seen a big change," Hamer said. "After the [playground was built], you saw more families. Now, we want to make sure the park stays safe and clean on any given day."

Fordham Bedford resident Jhalman Dass can see the difference. Dass, who brings his 1- year-old daughter to play in the park, said there is less graffiti and more police presence. He also welcomes the idea of having a visitor's center in the park. "If it's for the kids, it's very good," he said. "Now, kids won't have to go very far for these things."

But it's not only kids who enjoy the park. Grown-ups and kids all can participate in upcoming events. This spring, the Ravens will sponsor an Easter Egg Hunt on April 23 from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., and Friends and Families Day on June 3. Also, on May 13, the Ravens will host its Mother's Day Celebration, featuring dancing, games, and picture-taking. Hamer said the Ravens would also like to sponsor a health fair and a music program in the park this summer.

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