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New Parks Administrator in Rockaway Vows for More Transparency in Rebuild

By Katie Honan | April 8, 2015 4:50pm
 Portia Dyrenforth will begin in Rockaway on April 13.
Portia Dyrenforth will begin in Rockaway on April 13.
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Parks Department

ROCKAWAY BEACH — The peninsula’s new parks administrator vows to bring more transparency to the nearly half-billion dollars being spent on capital projects in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Portia Dyrenforth is set to start as administrator for the beaches and parks in Rockaway on April 13, taking over for Jill Weber, who left in January after eight years as the area’s chief.

Dyrenforth has worked for the Parks Department for 15 years, most recently as the administrator at Crotona Park in The Bronx, she said.

Before that she was the administrator of capital projects in Brooklyn, overseeing the renovation of the borough’s parks — most notably the restoration of the once-abandoned McCarren Park.

That project involved community planning sessions and primed her for the new position in Rockaway.

“I was there for the ribbon cutting,” she said of McCarren Pool. “We had a lot of conceptual plans with the community. That was the most exciting thing.”

In Rockaway, Dyrenforth said she hopes to make community input and transparency her first goal, and plans to spend her first week analyzing “exactly what the funding is for the boardwalk.”

The cost of the boardwalk has since spiked to more than $300 million, and the project has been approved for $480 million in federal funds. Community members have been involved throughout, offering suggestions and changes.

“I’d like to do whatever I can to keep the public informed, the community groups as well as the community board,” she said.

“I think I’m sensitive to what people want to know about.”

At Crotona Park, she valued her relationships with local schools and volunteer groups and plans to bring that to the beach, she said.

Dyrenforth had what she called an “arsenal” of volunteers she forged through her relationships.

“I had different schools and different groups adopt parts of the parks and have some ownership,” she said.

“I’m hoping to do that same kind of community engagement in the Rockaways.”