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Community Frustrated With City's Inaction Over Renovations at Unity Park

By Eddie Small | December 2, 2014 8:33am
 Community residents say they are frustrated with the city's inaction regarding a paint dispute at Unity Park.
Unity Park Frustration
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MORRISANIA — A youth group's ongoing effort to spruce up a derelict South Bronx park has met with resistance and foot-dragging from the city, frustrated community leaders said Monday.

The Renaissance Youth Center has collected about 600 signatures in an effort to push the city to allow the center to repaint Rev. Lena Irons Unity Park pink, after the Parks Department painted over the children's previous effort.

In August, the Parks Department, in response to what it said were community complaints, painted over the salmon-colored walls that the group had spent $2,000 to paint.

Regulations require all Bronx parks be gray for uniformity purposes, the agency said.

The Parks Department met with the youth center and other community members twice in early October to discuss what to do about the color situation and additional renovations that the children could help with at the park, located at 168th Street and Washington Avenue, according to Bervin Harris, co-executive director of the youth center.

Possible improvements include cleaning up broken branches, getting the electricity and water fountains working and repainting Unity Park. But virtually no action has taken place regarding those ideas since the groups met on Oct. 10, even though a representative from the department was supposed to get back to the youth center with more information shortly after that meeting, Harris said.

"She was supposed to get back to the commissioner and follow up with us on that Monday," he said. "This was a Friday, and here we are now. It’s been two months, a month and a half, and nothing."

John Dudley, district manager of Bronx Community Board 3, has been working with Harris to find a solution to the issues at Unity Park and said he was also disappointed with the city's slow pace.

"It’s frustrating to the extent that, if I heard from them, it would suggest to me that they’re looking to bring a resolution to addressing the needs of both parties," he said. "And it’s not happening as quickly and effectively as I’d like it to."

The Parks Department listed numerous improvements it recently made, including power washing the chess tables, pruning all of the trees, and planting perennials in the park while leaving room for children from the youth center to put in more plants.

"They've done absolutely nothing but plant flowers that no one asked for," Harris said. "That's something that they did on their own. We never, ever discussed that."

The Parks Department will issue a formal memo this week concerning what to do at the park in response to the Oct. 10 meeting, Dudley said he had been told by officials.

In the meantime, the Renaissance Youth Center has been circulating a petition in support of restoring Unity Park "back to an exciting color and letting the Parks Department know that we will not settle for prison colors."

The city's inaction over Unity Park comes in the wake of complaints from community groups about Parks Department Commissioner Mitchell Silver's inaccessibility and focus on world events as opposed to local concerns.

Harris stressed that the situation at the park has moved beyond being just about paint.

"At this point, it’s not even about the color of the park," he said. "It’s about empowering our young people and the community."