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Youth Group Allowed to Repaint Bronx Park After City Backs Down

By Eddie Small | December 15, 2014 4:49pm
 Bronx Parks Department reverses course to allow youth group to repaint Unity Park.
Unity Park
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MORRISANIA — After months of foot-dragging, the Parks Department decided to allow a South Bronx youth group to repaint Rev. Lena Irons Unity Park this spring, after the city painted over the kids' initial attempt.

The Renaissance Youth Center spent about $2,000 to paint the park pink this past summer only to have the Parks Department repaint it gray after community complaints and because of a department policy restricting the color of all Bronx parks to gray for purposes of uniformity, the agency said.

Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte met with the group in October to discuss changing it back, but then nothing happened, youth center co-executive director Bervin Harris said.

Last week, Aponte finally sent a letter promising to host a celebration called "It's My Park" in the spring, where the youth center and other community members would get the chance to paint the park wall and benches.

The Parks Department said it will pick up the bill for the new supplies.

Al-lisha Burns, a 17-year-old who helped the youth center with the park cleanup, said she was happy that they would get another chance to paint, although she was still frustrated over how lengthy the process was.

"I’m really grateful that we get an opportunity to do the plan that we originally thought up to do," she said, "but it just shouldn’t have taken this long."

The "It's My Park" day will likely include planting, mulching and other cleanup activities in addition to painting, and the specific date is still being determined, according to the Parks Department.

"It was never our intention to discourage New Yorkers from supporting their local park," Aponte wrote in the letter, "particularly the youngest New Yorkers who are so critical to the future of our city and its open spaces."

Herbert Irons, son of Unity Park's namesake and chairman of the board of trustees at the Evangelical Church of God, was one of the most outspoken critics of the salmon-colored paint job.

He said the city's decision was "reasonable, fair and appropriate," but he remained somewhat skeptical about finding a color that would make all parties happy.

"Can we reach a decision? That’s our question. I hope so," he said. "I think the way the park color is now looks fine. We don’t see the point in painting it another color, but we'll try to be reasonable. We'll sit down."

Community Board 3 will help mediate the discussion over what the new color should be.

Despite the problems that trying to repaint Unity Park caused for Renaissance Youth, Harris was still grateful that the effort had helped him develop more of a relationship with Community Board 3 and the Parks Department. He said he was excited to make Unity Park a famed destination in the neighborhood.

"How we can further use Unity Park to do some incredible things and be the park in The Bronx for community activity?" he asked. "I’m looking forward to that happening."