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Officials Break Ground on New Juan Bosch Plaza in Highbridge Park

By Carla Zanoni | November 17, 2011 6:20pm
Highbridge Park will soon have a new plaza named after the Dominican writer and former president Juan Bosch once construction is completed in mid-2012.
Highbridge Park will soon have a new plaza named after the Dominican writer and former president Juan Bosch once construction is completed in mid-2012.
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Parks Department

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Community officials gathered in the rain Thursday to commemorate the ground breaking of a new Highbridge Park plaza slated to open mid-year 2012.

Plans for Juan Bosch Plaza, named for the author and former president of the Dominican Republic during the 1960s, have been officially underway for five years but officially broke ground Thursday in the Fort George section of Washington Heights after years of searching for the ideal spot for the plaza.

“We’re moving forward and I am so proud to be here,” said Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who helped fund the $500,000 project through the City Council. The new plaza is part of the Parks Department's $97 million ten year restoration of Highbridge Park, which includes the restoration of the landmarked High Bridge.

Elected officials and representatives from the Dominican Republic who were in attendance during the groundbreaking said the new plaza, including the Dominican Ambassador to the United States, said the new plaza would celebrate the immigrant spirit of Washington Heights.

“We are here like the Jewish, Greek, Puerto Rican and African American immigrants before us,” State Sen. Adriano Espaillat said in Spanish, which was largely spoken throughout the groundbreaking ceremony. “We’ll have a similar trajectory and we need to leave monuments to celebrate the achievements that reflect our contribution to the development we’ve dedicated to this community.”

The new plaza will add seating and a winding path along one of the highest points of Manhattan with new lighting illuminating the park and inscriptions from Bosch’s inspirational writing.

“The gift he left for us is everything he had, through his writing,” said Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, who said he first began looking for a park back in the 1990s as a City Councilman with his then-colleague the deceased Councilman Stan Michaels.

“This park was waiting for Juan Bosch,” he said.

Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, chair of Community Board 12’s Parks and Cultural Affairs committee, said the board had “been moved to tears” after seeing the design plans for the plaza.

“This is a gift to the community so that even people who didn’t learn about him in school can learn about this great man,” she said.

Washington Heights resident Denise Lauffer said she was pleased to see her neighborhood park receive such attention, but expressed some dismay that the plaza was not named for a historical figure of note from Washington Heights.

“This area is so rich in history, it would be nice to see someone honored from here,” she said as she walked her dog Tater along the sidewalk that rims the park that was once the Fort Tryon Amusement Park, complete with a ferris wheel; toboggan slide; an ice cream parlor; and two music halls, the Star and the Trocadero, according to the Parks Department website.

Ivette Morales, a nearby resident of 45 years, said she didn’t know much about Bosch himself, but welcomed any improvements to the park, especially when they mean improved safety and quality of life.

“It would be nice to walk along her and not feel like I’m walking in a black hole,” she said of walking in the park at night. “Things like that are for the good.”