19, No. 8
April 20 - May 3 , 2006
Oval Entrance Unveiled
By HEATHER HADDON
Five years after it was first funded, a complete transformation
of the Williamsbridge Oval’s northern entrance was officially unveiled last
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
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
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