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Makeover Planned for Long 'Neglected' Section of Fort Tryon Park

By Carla Zanoni | April 20, 2012 8:17am

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A desolate stretch of Fort Tryon Park is a step closer to a long-overdue facelift.

The Parks Department has announced plans for a one-year $1.6 million renovation of the southeastern section of the park that hasn't been overhauled since the 1930s.

The goal is to attract more visitors to a swath of the park that's become better known for its reported muggings and drug activity than as a scenic landmark, officials said. Harlan Pruden, chair ofCommunity Board 12's parks and cultural affairs committee, called the area "neglected" during a presentation on the plan. 

"We have had some insecurity in the park and this work is to encourage people to enjoy the park," said Steve Simon, Manhattan Parks Division chief of staff and Community Board 12 member.  

Work on the area, just south of the popular Heather Garden,Cloisters Museum and New Leaf Café, is likely to start next spring.

"The plan is part of the department and Fort Tryon Park Trust's efforts to revitalize more areas of Fort Tryon for the growing community and visitors," Northern Manhattan Administrator Jennifer Hoppa wrote in an email. 

To improve public access, the Parks Department will focus on improving pathways near the historic Billings Arcade, which once welcomed visitors to the Billings estate that John D. Rockefellerincorporated into the design of the park.

Asphalt pavement, stairs and landings will be repaired and drainage will be installed. There will also be new benches and lighting, plus reconstructed drinking fountains, according to the Parks plan. 

"It sounds like a great project for an area that’s had no work done on it for years," CB12 member Zead Ramadan said.

The department is also set to plant "a significant conifer/evergreen" population to create a one-mile horticultural "Winter Walk" trail through the park.

The proposal won the endorsement of the CB12's parks and cultural affairs committee on April 3. 

The full board is expected to vote on it during its general meeting on Tuesday. 

The Parks Department is also poised to restore the 150-foot stretch of rocky cliffs on the northwestern stretch of Fort Tryon Park that arches from Broadway to the upper level of the green space where the Cloisters Museum sits. 

That plan is slated to be completed by the end of 2012. 

An earlier version of the story misattributed the description of the park as "neglected" to Steve Simon. Instead, it was said by CB12's parks and cultural affairs chair Harlan Pruden.