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Beloved Inwood Garden Threatened by Parks Dept. Project, Residents Say

By Nigel Chiwaya | January 29, 2014 10:51am
  The caretakers of Bruce's Garden say a plan to run a water pipe to Isham Park could destroy the garden.
Bruce's Garden Threatened
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INWOOD — A beloved Inwood community garden named after a 9/11 first responder is in danger of being destroyed if the city follows through on a plan to tunnel underneath it as part of a water pipe project, according to the garden's caretaker.

The Parks Department is scheduled to begin construction work in March to return water service and supply water fountains in Isham Park and Bruce's Garden, named after Bruce Reynolds, a Port Authority officer who died in the World Trade Center terror attacks.

The city's plan hinges on digging up Bruce's Garden as part of a construction project to run a water pipe underground from Park Terrace East into Isham Park — a project that would cause irreparable damage to the garden, according to caretaker JA Reynolds.

"It took a lot of time and work to develop that garden," said Reynolds, 90, Bruce's father. "It's wrong for them to even consider using that as a water resource."

Reynolds, his family and community volunteers have worked for more than 30 years to make the garden a community haven in Inwood, hosting the area's annual tree-lighting ceremony.

Isham Park and Bruce's Garden have been without water service and drinking fountains since the 1970s, Reynolds said, and plans to return water to the parks were set in motion in 2011, when former City Councilman Robert Jackson allocated $750,000 in funds to the projectCommunity Board 12 voted in favor of a plan to return water to the park in 2012.

To bring back water service, the Parks Department is planning to tap into a water main at Park Terrace East near West 215th Street and run pipes through the garden and the park. 

In addition to threatening the garden, Reynolds said the resulting construction will cause a safety hazard. Park Terrace East is a narrow street that ends a cul-de-sac, and blocking even half of the street would lead to backed up traffic and would make it difficult for emergency vehicles to maneuver about.

Reynolds and Aaron Scott, who are part of the community group Isham Park Restoration Project, 1970 Inc., are proposing that the Parks Department instead shift its construction over to Park Terrace West, which they say presents fewer safety hazards and would not necessitate the destruction of the park. They have created a petition online to draw attention to their cause. The petition had drawn 82 signatures as of Tuesday evening.

The Parks Department argues that moving the project to Park Terrace West would create more hazards, as it would necessitate drilling through a retaining wall and placing heavy construction equipment on a sloped surface.

Parks spokesman Phil Abramson told DNAinfo New York that Parks officials, including Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro have met with Reynolds about his concerns and that the department is looking at ways to minimize damage to the garden.

"We are exploring possible alternatives to do the work in a way that would further minimize the impact on the garden," Abramson said.

Several uptown elected officials have expressed a desire to protect the garden as well. On Tuesday City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Mark Levine, Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat sent a joint letter to the Parks and Transportation Departments asking them to find a way to add water service without jeopardizing the park.

"DOT and Parks should consider additional input from local residents who will be impacted by this construction, and we have requested both agencies meet with our community to hear these concerns," Espaillat said in a statement to DNAinfo New York.

"Bruce's Garden is a relic of our community and we will support it in any way we can. We share Mr. Reynolds' concerns about maintaining the full integrity of the garden and will be working with NYC Parks and community members to ensure that the necessary water access does not disturb this Inwood treasure," Rodriguez added.

A DOT spokesman did not return requests for comment.