Fort Washington Park to Undergo Major Facelift

By Carla Zanoni on May 15, 2012 1:57pm 

The southern end of the Greenway, along the Hudson River, in Fort Washington Park.
The southern end of the Greenway, along the Hudson River, in Fort Washington Park.
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DNAinfo/Carla Zanoni

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A multifaceted city plan to rejuvenate a downtrodden 160-acre park along the Hudson River with playgrounds, ballfields and walking paths is taking shape as the city embarks on a multimillion-dollar restoration project for the scenic green space.

The restoration of Fort Washington Park — part of the city’s $40 million restoration of Upper Manhattan parks under PlaNYC — seeks to rehabilitate and rebuild parts of the park from West 163rd Street all the way north to Dyckman Street, where it meets Inwood Hill Park. 

“Several projects are under way in Ft. Washington Park to reconstruct the active recreational zone and improve park circulation in a manner that meets the natural and historic qualities of the park,” Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson told DNAinfo New York. 

Plans include the reconstruction of ball fields, a new state-of-the-art playground, the reconstruction of a 1-mile stretch of the Greenway, new pedestrian pathways and an accessible connecting ramp at Dyckman Street. 

Many residents say they are excited to see that the park will be getting a makeover, especially in areas that have experienced decay over the years.

“I don’t go to the park during the week,” said Washington Heights mom Elyse Strom, 33, who said one of her favorite spots in upper Manhattan is the Little Red Lighthouse, which sits in the center of Fort Washington Park. “It just doesn’t feel safe.”

Some park-goers commented that safety was a top priority in renovating the park, according to a Parks Department survey of residents in 2007 after the mayor’s PlaNYC project was announced, officials said. 

“I feel insecure at entrances and pathways,” responded one participant, according to the published survey

Although the restoration of the park centers on several activity sites in the park, a large chunk of the work will look to improve pathways and traffic throughout the nearly 3-mile stretch that weaves along the Hudson River. 

Rendering of Fort Washington Park ball fields.
Rendering of Fort Washington Park ball fields.
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Parks Department

On the southern end of the park, the department plans to create a state-of-the-art playground near West 162nd Street, where an iron gate now encloses a vast field of concrete, wild flowers and weeds. Construction is currently under way on the plot.  

To the north of the playground, between West 163rd and West 168th streets, the department plans a $3.9 million reconstruction of “two softball fields and one multi-purpose football/soccer field in natural turf so they are reorganized for simultaneously play,” Abramson said.

Nearby, the department will reconstruct pedestrian pathways that have fallen into disrepair over the years. 

Both projects are expected to begin in the fall. 

On the northern end of the park, one mile of greenway path will be revitalized between the George Washington Bridge and Dyckman Street — a stretch of the park that was originally laid out by Robert Moses when the city built the Henry Hudson Parkway.

Additionally, the department is now accepting bids to add an ADA-accessible ramp on the west side of the Henry Hudson Parkway near Staff Street, where it does a switchback to get down to Dyckman Street and to the entrance of Inwood Hill Park. 

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