The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Bronx Students Call for Better Programs and Safety at St. Mary's Park

By Eddie Small | June 11, 2014 8:42am
 Students called for a stronger police presence and more lights at the South Bronx park.
Students called for a stronger police presence and more lights at the South Bronx park.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Eddie Small

MOTT HAVEN — Students from the Bronx have joined the chorus of voices calling for improvements to St. Mary's Park such as safety and increased services.

A group of students at the Academy for Language and Technology (ALT), a high school in Morris Heights, gave a presentation at LISC NYC and suggested adding more lights and police officers.

The survey from ALT comes amid community frustration about the park's locked baseball fields and a report from the research and advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks that criticized St. Mary's for a number of reasons, including a flooding bathroom, "crumbling pathways" and aging playground equipment.

They also asked for more programming for girls, such as volleyball, softball and dance classes, and adults, such as Bingo games and walks.

The presentation stemmed from a survey the students did as part of participating in Y-PLAN, a program based out of the University of California, Berkeley, that aims to get youths more involved with their communities.

The ALT students wanted to focus on making their neighborhood healthier, which led to an interest in why more people were not using St. Mary's Park for exercise and recreation.

"No one knew about it. We thought that was the problem or the issue," said Michael Seltzer, a teacher at ALT who helps run Y-PLAN. "But it was a way bigger issue than we thought."

The students surveyed 100 people in the community to find out why the park's recreation center was being underutilized and found that a lack of security and services were two of the main reasons.

Hector Robert, an 11th grader at ALT who lives close to St. Mary's, said he knew that crime was a concern, but he was surprised that it was serious enough to prevent people from coming to the park.

"I thought they would keep going anyway," he said.

Murders in the 40th precinct, where St. Mary's Park is located, have dropped by 33.3 percent through June 1 compared to last year, from three to two, but shooting incidents have risen 8.3 percent, from 12 to 13.

Tonya Gayle, senior manager for strategic projects at NYCHA, attended the presentation and said she was pleased with the concerns the students outlined.

"I think they're very actually thorough and aligned with what we've been hearing from other community members," she said.