Vol. 18, No. 18 Sept. 22 - Oct.5, 2005


Filtration Money Begins Making Its Mark on Parks
VC Park Designs Follow Community’s Plan


The $200 million fund created to improve Bronx parks in connection with the construction of the Croton water filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park has already been put to good use in local green spaces.

In St. James Park, the first phase of a $5 million renovation is well under way. The central staircase at Creston Avenue is complete, with new stone steps, cast-iron fencing and a small garden at the foot of the steps. Work has not yet been completed on staircases at the northeast and southeast corners of the park. Phase II of the project, which will include new paths and the repair of perimeter fencing, is scheduled to begin next spring.

Three years ago, a group of young people at the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center and the COVE youth center in Knox-Gates gathered with park advocates, an urban planner from Harvard and a designer from the Parks Department to envision what they wanted for the southeastern entrance of the park at the corner of Jerome Avenue and Gun Hill Road, an area known as the Saturn Playground.

At the time, the obstacles to realizing the vision were significant considering the lack of capital funds for such projects. But the money from the sale of water bonds in connection with the siting of the plant just north of the southeast corner, has turned what was seemingly an academic exercise into official architectural plans. The Parks Department has already awarded the job to a contractor and work is expected to begin later this fall and end a year later, according to a spokesman for the agency,

Park advocates seemed pleasantly surprised that their work was so closely adhered to.

“Everything that people asked for — the fence around the area, the water play, the sitting area, the large comfort station, new entrance — all of that is in this plan,” said Paul Sawyer, executive director of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, an advocacy group. “It’s wonderful that this construction is so in line with what the community talked about …”

Sawyer was also pleased that the three-section playground is set closer to the park entrance, another feature the community requested.

Also included in the community’s plan were two additional phases of construction that included a jogging path, a community garden and a dog run. Those parts of the plan are not yet funded.

Several other major park projects in the area are still in the planning stages (see sidebar), but all are scheduled to be completed within the next five years, according to the Parks Department.

Park Projects in Area Associated With  Filtration  Plant

Devoe Park — $3 million
Reconstruction of playground to include new play equipment, landscaping and drainage improvements. Construction is expected to begin next spring.

Williamsbridge Oval Park —
$15 million

Park work to include the restoration of perimeter walls and fencing with gates ($1,860,000); track and field, ($1,950,000); playground #1, ($1,100,000); playground #3, ($1,100,000); senior area, ($650,000), roller hockey area/skate park ($2,500,000); slope stabilization and promenade ($3,430,035), and recreation site work (2,340,000).

Harris Park Ball Fields — $9,860,000
Reconstruction of nine athletic fields, three new staircases and ADA access leading into the park..

Van Cortlandt Park, Allen Shandler Recreation Area — $1,300,000
Reconstruction of the picnic area landscape and the renovation of the existing comfort station.

Aqueduct Walk — $7 million
Reconstruction of first Aqueduct section from Kingsbridge Road to Morton Place. Section to include new promenade pavement, new playgrounds, and new passive spaces.

Jerome Park Reservoir Pathway — $5 million
New recreational pathway to be constructed around the reservoir.

St. James Park — $5 million
Reconstruction of the retaining walls with new perimeter fencing, pathways, sidewalk, landscaping, and stairs.

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