Vol. 17, No. 11 May 20 - June 2, 2004


After Delays, Devoe Park Renovations Progress


A major project to build new basketball courts and add more landscaping to Devoe Park in University Heights has been moving along for the past several months --  but not as quickly as advocates hoped. A Parks Department sign hanging in the Fordham Road park states that construction was to conclude April 28, but the area is still a field of dirt.

"I see no way it's going to be done before June at the rate the contractor is going," said Paul Vonseckendorff, director of the Friends of Devoe Park volunteer group.

Parks started the renovations last year after a $477,000 allocation from Council Member Maria Baez. The funds were allocated to move Devoe's basketball court to the east, thereby moving it away from several large trees that stood on the perimeter and presented a potential hazard for players. With the courts removed from the middle of the park, Devoe will also gain a long, open grassy area in its center, new pathways, and a better drainage system.

Last month, Robert McDermott, the local parks manager, told Community Board 7's Parks Committee that construction would wrap up at the end of April. "I guess he hadn't been out there recently," said Barbara Stronczer, committee chair.

While the old court has been cleared, the landscaping is still in its early stages. The areas for the courts and pathways have been outlined, and the stubs of lighting posts are installed. Last week, workers were planting a number of saplings.

Phoebe Morris, a resident of Fordham Hill Cooperatives, thinks the progress is going pretty well. "It looks like what they are planning will be beautiful," she said.

But Vonseckendorff is less than pleased. "The contractor has been dragging his feet," he said about Advance Builders of Brooklyn, which is carrying out the work. While the court was demolished back in November, the debris sat in a dumpster for months, according to Vonseckendorff.

Bronx Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski blamed the elements, and not the contractor, for the delays. "It was a particularly tough spring with all the rain," she said. Lewandowski estimated that the work would conclude by the end of June.

She is also hoping that, if more money is allocated, that the smaller playground to the west will be renovated. "The park will continue to have other capital improvements," Lewandowski said

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