UPPER WEST SIDE — The Parks Department wants to hear from Upper West Siders on how to spend $2.5 million reserved for renovations to Riverside Park South.
"We have a lot more real estate than we are used to utilizing," said Margaret Bracken, the Parks Department's assistant landscape architect for Riverside Park, who led a tour between Pier I and West 72nd Street.
Dog walkers, ballplayers, walkers and parents were among the stakeholders who chimed in at a recent meeting in Riverside Park South.
Parent Cindy Dupont envisioned a place for her children to garden.
"Is there a place for that?" she asked.
One idea that's gotten serious traction is a shade structure for Pier 1, according to Community Board 7 Chairman Mark Diller.
Changes to the area — which currently includes a bike path, a baseball diamond, basketball courts, a dog run and dead space underneath the highway — are necessary because "the heavy usage [of this part of the park] was not anticipated," Bracken said.
The ideas were flowing, with proposals ranging from resurfacing the basketball courts, adding a rock climbing wall and creating a batting cage for the area's Little League teams.
Community Board 7 member Ken Coughlin recommended creating a wider space between bike riders and other path users to avoid collisions and congestion — common park complaints.
Board member Mel Wymore said he worries that the cost of the recommended improvements could outpace the budget.
"It all sounds like it [costs] more than $2.5 million," Wymore said.
But parks committee co-chair Klari Neuwelt said that "as the buildings are further developed, the developer has an increasing obligation to put in more money."
Bracken encouraged residents to think big.
"This is a great idea to put our future laundry list [of wishes] together," she said.
Bracken said the Parks Department is "just moving into design" and that that phase would last a year followed by about 18 months of construction.
The public is invited to weigh in with ideas on Monday, March 18 at 7 p.m. at Community Board 7's offices on West 87th Street at Broadway.