|Vol. 13, No. 7
||April 6 - 19,
St. James Park Improvements Show No Sign of
By HANNAN ADELY
In December, the St. James Recreation
Center celebrated its 25th anniversary, but that wasn't the only cause
to celebrate. The entire 11-acre park, located on Jerome Avenue below
Kingsbridge Road in Fordham Bedford, has enjoyed expansion, renovation
and renewal in the past few years, and the improvements keep coming.
St. James Park is a recreational, athletic haven that provides activities ranging from
basketball to arts and crafts to after-school tutoring. The thriving green space includes
six handball courts, two basketball courts, a playground, a soccer field and a
program-packed community center.
With the help of the city Parks Department, the 52nd Precinct and local politicians, the
popular park has made significant strides to become safer and cleaner. "I've seen the
park go through ups and downs," said Fordham Bedford resident Willie Colon. "...
Four summers ago someone was shot right in front of me in the handball court." Colon
now comes to the park to jog, ride his bike and play handball without reservation.
Local resident Jennifer Melendez remembers a time when there was no gate around the
playground and the now-green lawn was just dirt. Now, said Melendez, "It looks
better, it's cleaner. When they see graffiti, they clean it up right away."
The Friends of St. James, a volunteer group, and park staffers have
police to get patrols beefed up at the park, said Santiago Milland,
head of the volunteer group. Milland also believes the installation
of fencing in 1998 was instrumental to the park's improved safety.
Now, the park is locked up every night at 10 p.m. and opened at 7
Altogether, 1998 was a good year for the park, as it also got a grant from Bronx Borough
President Fernando Ferrer for $750,000 to renovate the tennis courts, pavement and lawn.
And currently, additional funding from Ferrer, the city and from private donors is being
used to renovate the community center's gym floor and were already used to develop a
computer resource center and fitness rooms.
Anthony Martinez, catalyst coordinator with the Partnership for Parks, a public-private
entity that singles out city parks for improvements, said all the positive changes have
"put the park on the radar of local politicians, city agencies and community
The good news also has parkgoers optimistic about St. James this season. Bronx residents
will flock to St. James Park for activities like the popular teen basketball program, for
free tennis lessons for kids, and for various senior workshops. Events at the park include
an egg hunt on April 23, Feast Day, when families picnic and enjoy games and music on July
22, and a spring clean-up and planting day on May 20. Year-round events also include
concerts and an annual Christmas tree lighting.
And park workers and volunteers keep adding more to the agenda. Brenda Beal, a member of
the Friends of St. James, who was designated Bronx volunteer of the month by the Parks
Department, is plotting to bring movies and concerts to the park this summer. "[The
park] is continuing to grow," Beal said. "It's growing more and getting better
** To find out about programs and activities at the St. James Park and Recreation
Center, call 882-4271.
** To join the Friends of St. James Park or find about other volunteer
opportunities, call Anthony Martinez, catalyst coordinator at 430-1864, or call Vanessa K.
Irizarry Gaud, St. James Park outreach coordinator, at 430-1864.
** The Poe Cottage is open for guided tours on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and
on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. or during the week by appointment. For more information, call
The Bronx County Historical Society at 881-8900.
** To find out about programs and events or for information on joining the Ravens,
call the Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation at 367-3200.
** For recorded information about park events, call (212) 360-3456 or log on to www.nycparks.org or www.partnershipsforparks.org
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