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Fix Our Parks, South Bronx Residents Tell City

By Eddie Small | October 31, 2014 1:34pm | Updated on November 3, 2014 8:51am
 Youths from Grand Slam Little League, Morris Little League and The Bronx is Blooming worked to clean up Claremont Park over the summer.
Youths from Grand Slam Little League, Morris Little League and The Bronx is Blooming worked to clean up Claremont Park over the summer.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

SOUTH BRONX — The basketball court at Dunbar Playground needs backboards and rims, and the handball court could use some improved walls. The bathroom in Railroad Park must be rebuilt. And residents would like to see an indoor concert and event facility at Crotona Park.

These are just a few of the items on Bronx Community Board 3's wish list for the 2016 fiscal year budget, which includes requests for more than $2.5 million of improvements at neighborhood parks.

CB3 Chairwoman Gloria Alston said that the focus on parks comes as schools and community groups have started using the parks more.

"A lot of people are requesting improvements in the parks," she said, "and that's really where we get our information from."

Budget requests range from $1.93 million for landscape and other improvements at Estella Diggs Park to $840,000 for a renovated bathroom at Crotona Park by East 171st Street and Fulton Avenue.

Several upgrade requests are for Crotona Park, a 127.5-acre park in the district. The community board's requests for this green space include making playground, bathroom and ballfield renovations, installing park benches, security lighting and a skateboard ramp, and building an indoor special events venue.

Crotona has increased in popularity as more residents have started to stay in parks closer to the community, rather than venture to other neighborhoods, Alston said.

"A lot of people used to go to Pelham Bay Park," she said. "Now, they’re in Crotona Park."

The budget requests dovetail with Mayor Bill de Blasio's recently launched Community Parks Initiative to invest $130 million in 35 parks across low-income areas of New York City.

The mayor's program is separate from the board's budget requests, though several areas in The Bronx that the CPI targets for improvements are located in Community District 3, such as Little Claremont Park and Seabury Park.

The initiative also includes funding for Melrose Commons, a site at Melrose Avenue and 160th Street where Community Board 3 has been requesting a new park for about 10 years.

"I always knew it’s a long wait," said Alston, "but I’m always happy to see when some of our requests get attention."

Although many other parks where CB3 has requested improvements do not overlap with the CPI, Parks Department press officer Sabirah Abdus-Sabur stressed that the $130 million project is part of what the agency views as a broader effort to renovate parks that need improvement.

"We are continuing to work with elected officials and community leaders to identify and address areas in need," Abdus-Sabur said in an email.

Estella Diggs Park is included in the department's capital projects, and the city is also working on areas at Crotona Park including the pool house, nature center and ballfields, Abdus-Sabur added.

P.S. 4, located right along Crotona Park on Fulton Avenue, uses the green space frequently, according to Elizabeth Colon, secretary at the school and a community resident of 23 years.

Although she described the park as "beautiful," she still had one big idea for something that could make it even better.

"We sometimes end up going to Pelham Bay because [the park] has that track around the football field," she said. "If we had a track over here, that would be something that would be great for us here in the neighborhood."