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Free Wi-Fi Proposed for Uptown Parks

By Carla Zanoni | March 12, 2012 4:10pm

UPPER MANHATTAN — The Parks Department plans to launch a new initiative to bring Wi-Fi to Upper Manhattan parks.

The department is currently looking into the feasibility of connecting the parks and plans to roll out some of the service between this summer and the fall of 2013, according to a department spokesman.

 J. Hood Wright, Bennett, Fort Tryon and Inwood Hill parks would all receive wireless service, according to a draft document from the department. Wi-Fi at the proposed sites would be provided by Time Warner cable.

“This is the future and an important part of society to connect digitally,” CB12 member Richard Lewis said of the plan when it was discussed during the Parks and Cultural Affairs committee meeting last week.

Although receptive to the plan, members of Community Board 12 balked at the idea that only parks west of Broadway, an area generally more affluent than east of Broadway and believed to be less digitally connected than other areas in Washington Heights and Inwood, would only receive access.

Last summer the mayor announced the city was working to bring Wi-Fi across the city to 26 parks, but the plan did not stretch above West 155th Street.

Board members suggested bringing wireless connection to Highbridge Park, near the public pool, and the new Wright Brothers Park at West 156th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, which the department has poured more than $2 million into renovating.

They also requested the department roll out service concurrently throughout the area so as to avoid the perception of a digital divide within the neighborhood.

Manhattan's borough Parks Commissioner Bill Castro told the committee that the department is still willing to work with the community to identify the best spots for Wi-Fi throughout the CB12 district.

“There is a limit on the number we can do,” Castro said, “but these were preliminary and we are still open to suggested locations.” 

Board member Zead Ramadan also implored the department to reconsider its plan to focus only on the western edge of the neighborhood.

“Socioeconomic status doesn’t have a say in this,” Ramadan said. “All children can benefit from this, it’s not just one side of town that can utilize this.”