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Cleanup Continues at Bronx Parks Battered by Sandy and Nor'easter

By Patrick Wall | November 9, 2012 7:43pm

BRONX — Last week, when Sandy visited the many parks and beaches that dot The Bronx, she did not go for a quiet stroll.

Instead, the storm tore down trees, upended boardwalks and flooded fields.

Then, just as the city workers and volunteers had cleared much of the debris and reopened most parks, the nor’easter blasted through, disrupting the recovery efforts and shutting down the parks system again.

“It was a serious double whammy,” said Ellen Bruzelius, executive director of the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, which sits in Pelham Bay Park.

On Thursday, most Bronx parks reopened, though many beaches, playgrounds and wooded areas remained off-limits.

Over the weekend Orchard Beach and Crotona Park will both host volunteer cleanup days.

Here's a survey of some of The Bronx park damage caused by the storms and the subsequent cleanup efforts:

At least 100 trees came down in Van Cortlandt Park, blocking nearly every trail, said Christina Taylor, executive director of Friends of Van Cortlandt Park.

Last weekend, about 300 volunteers descended on the park, helping to restore about 75 percent of the park to normal, Taylor said. Another 150 are expected to volunteer this weekend.

“It’s wonderful that people are coming out and helping with the storm cleanup,” she said.

Pelham Bay Park, the city’s largest, suffered serious damages.

“There’s a lot of downed trees, closed trails and debris that washed in from the sea,” said Lizbeth González, president of Friends of Pelham Bay Park.

Along Orchard Beach, tiles “popped up like Scrabble pieces,” she added.

Last week, 400 volunteers filled four large Dumpsters with broken limbs and other waste and four trucks with displaced sand, González said.

But because the park and its shoreline is so expansive, they still “desperately need volunteers,” she said.

Volunteers will meet Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the northeast corner of the Orchard Beach parking lot.

The Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum in Pelham Bay Park lost several big oak and pine trees and sustained some minor damage, according to Bruzelius, the executive director.

A cleanup day was scheduled for Saturday, but was postponed because of wetness caused by Wednesday’s snowstorm.

The volunteer cleanup now will happen Saturday, Nov. 17, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a light breakfast to be served.

The storm caused “significant damage to trees, fences, small structures, signs, and one building across the 250 acres of The New York Botanical Garden,” spokesman Stevenson Swanson said in an email.

A total of 286 trees were uprooted or destroyed and 271 were damaged, which makes Sandy the most destructive storm in terms of tree loss in the Garden’s history, Swanson said.

“The trees that were lost include some of our ancient and most magnificent oaks, as well as hundreds of mature pines, spruces, and firs,” he said.

Cleanup is expected to take several months.

At Ferry Point Park on the East River, two feet of water flooded the synthetic-turf soccer field and at least eight mature trees toppled, according to Dorothea Poggi, president of Friends of Ferry Point Park.

The dock at Barretto Point Park in Hunts Point lost some planks, according to Rafael Salamanca, district manager of Bronx Community Board 2.

That park’s famous floating pool shifted during the storm and needs to be evaluated by FEMA to determine whether it is eligible for any federal assistance, Salamanca added.

Crotona Park will host volunteer cleanup days from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday and next Wednesday, November 14.

By Thursday afternoon, the Parks Department had responded to 800 of 1,500 requests to remove downed trees or hanging or fallen limbs in the Bronx, according to spokesman Zachary Feder.

Currently, 50 Bronx sites remained closed — about 14 percent of the total — mostly due to downed trees, Feder said.

“We’ll start removing these trees once we finish clearing all trees and hanging limbs from houses, power lines, and roads, which we expect to happen next week,” he added.

Closed Bronx parks, according to the Parks Department website, include: Devoe, Hackett, Harding, Henry Hudson, Joseph Rodman Drake, Poe, Pugsley Creek, Seton Falls, Soundview (except for its playgrounds, which are open) and Walton Slope.