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Upper West Siders Weigh In on Renovations to Riverside Park South

By Emily Frost | March 14, 2013 4:00pm

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.

The grant, secured by City Councilwoman Gale Brewer after negotiations with Extell Development Company over the Riverside Center development, has been set aside to transform the public space.

"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.