Vol. 19,  No.  8 April 20 - May 3 , 2006


Oval Entrance Unveiled


Five years after it was first funded, a complete transformation of the Williamsbridge Oval’s northern entrance was officially unveiled last week.

City and state officials, advocates and school children gathered in the warm spring sun to cut the ribbon on the $530,000 remake, which includes new benches, fences, stonework and a gate for the Norwood park. The work is a small taste of bigger things in store for the Oval this year, with $13 million worth of improvements coming down the pike shortly.

“The best is yet to come,” said city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who jovially entertained the rows of children attending the event. “In three years, you won’t believe what this park will look like.”

The city is finalizing plans this month for the extensive renovations, which will include a new track, paths and erosion control. Once the blueprint is complete, it will be presented for final public input at the next Community Board 7 meeting.

Funding for the overhaul is part of the $240 million promised to Bronx parks projects over the next several years. The spending is remediation for the water filtration plant, which is now being built in nearby Van Cortlandt Park. Benepe made reference to the community opposition to the “controversial” tradeoff, but local officials sidestepped the issue.

“I’m delighted that this gem is being reclaimed,” said Council Member Oliver Koppell, who appropriated the $530,000 along with his predecessor, June Eisland.

Barbara Stronczer, CB7’s Parks Committee chair, also celebrated the borough-wide work. “This is a very happy time for parks in Community Board 7,” she said.

The city has spent an all-time record of $300 million on parks construction projects this year. St. James Park in North Fordham is also scheduled for an entire makeover. While several staircases were replaced recently, the restoration of the park house has been plagued by years of setbacks. Four separate contractors defaulted on the project since it began in 2003. Raymundo Gomez, who oversees Bronx capital projects, says Parks hopes to have the work finally completed this summer.

Work on the Oval’s entrance, in contrast, went remarkably smoothly. A small construction crew labored throughout the winter (they built a fire in a drum barrel to keep warm). Before the opening, a city crew did a thorough cleanup and tended to the flowerbeds. The entire project took about six months.

Kayla Davis, 7, was impressed by the results. “It’s nice and clean,” said Davis, who lives near Fordham Road. Later that day, families and young couples had taken to the benches, and teens gathered by the stairs.

Kayla attended the ceremony with a few dozen other kids from the Turn 2 after-school program at St. James Recreation Center. Other event attendees included Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, CB7 Chair Greg Faulkner, Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte, and local community advocates like Barbara Stronczer, chair of CB7’s Parks Committee, and Dart Westphal, president of Mosholu Preservation Corporation and publisher of the Norwood News.

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