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Red Tape Leaves Columbia's Waterfront Park Locked

By Nigel Chiwaya | September 10, 2013 9:44am
  The park, dubbed "Muscota Marsh," remains locked up even as Columbia says construction is finished.
Muscota Marsh Still Closed
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INWOOD — The Inwood waterfront park built by Columbia University for residents in exchange for expanded land rights is complete, but the school says it has to wait on the Parks Department to give it the green light to open — while the Parks Department says Columbia still hasn't complteted the final touches.

The Columbia Boathouse Marsh — also known as the "Muscota Marsh" in honor of the area's Native American heritage — currently has all its benches, lights, rails and plants in place. But it sits locked behind a fence pending a certificate of completion from the Parks Department, a Columbia spokeswoman said.

“The construction of Muscota Marsh (previously referred to as “Boathouse Marsh”) is complete," Columbia spokeswoman Victoria Benitez said in a statement.

"We continue to work closely and cooperatively with the Department of Parks and Recreation, which must issue a Certificate of Completion prior to the opening of the park and we look forward to the community’s use of the new public amenities on the waterfront."

Benitez did not give an opening date.

After initially referring all calls to Columbia, a Parks Department spokesman said Tuesday that the university still hadn't finished the signs, plantings and handrails.

"While the major elements of the construction work at the marsh is complete, there remains some last remaining items that Columbia is finishing including the installation of handrails, landscaping and signage.  Parks is working closely with Columbia to ensure that all components are completed so that this new open space may soon open to the community this fall."

The park, which was the centerpiece of Columbia's 2011 community benefits agreement in exchange for permission to build its Campbell Sports Center on 218th Street and Broadway, had initially been slated to open in 2012, but was delayed because of Hurricane Sandy.

The status of the park has been a mystery to residents, who have relied on updates from Columbia on the project's status. The University's last update was posted in March, and said that construction was nearing completion and that only minor plantings and work remained.

"I would say the part with the deck, it seems like it's been done for a couple of months," said resident Kevin McKeon, secretary for the Inwood Canoe Club.

"It's a shame they couldn't have opened it during the summer," said another resident.

The project has been fraught with delays. Construction of the marsh, built on land formerly owned by Columbia University, began in the summer of 2012 with an eye toward a fall 2012 opening. However, the plans were backed up by Hurricane Sandy. In January, Columbia predicted a spring 2013 opening.

In June, Parks Department employee Terese Flores told Community Board 12's Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee that the Department was still designing parks signage and that the department would conduct final inspections some time after final plantings were laid down in July.