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VA Hospital's Flood Wall Work Tears Up Part of New Kips Bay Playground

By Noah Hurowitz | August 25, 2015 3:31pm
 Construction on a hospital flood wall has locked neighbors out of part of the new Asser Levy Playground
Asser Levy Playground
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KIPS BAY — Just when Stuy Town resident Adam Steinberg thought he had finally gotten his regular workout spot, he lost it.

The fitness equipment at Asser Levy Playground in Kips Bay was open for use for just eight months — much of that in the dead of winter — before construction on a flood wall protecting the adjacent Department of Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Healthcare System tore up the exercise area and a portion of the park’s track.

The rapid opening and closing of the exercise area has left some neighbors scratching their heads.

“It was only available for five or six months at the most, and then it was gone,” Steinberg said. “The timing seemed very odd.”

Steinberg enjoyed the convenience of using the fitness equipment at Asser Levy, which is just three blocks from his house, but now must head more than a mile away to East River Park if he wants to work out on city recreation equipment, he said.

The park opened next to the existing Asser Levy Recreation Center in December 2014, a little more than a year after the city announced a plan to close off Asser Levy Place between 23rd and 25th streets for good.

The project cost $2.3 million, with $1.17 million of that coming from City Councilman Daniel Garodnick, $670,000 from the mayor and $500,000 from the United Nations Development Corporation, according to a department spokeswoman.

Construction began Aug. 11 on the flood wall, which aims to spare the hospital future devastation like the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy, which left the facility closed for nearly six months after the storm.

The wall will stretch 1,507 feet from the building’s 23rd Street entrance, east to the playground, and west along 25th street. A VA spokeswoman estimated that the contractor in charge of the project should complete the flood wall by March.

The timing was less than ideal, but the construction flood wall took precedence, according to Sandro Sherrod, chair of Community Board 6.

“We were kinda given heads up that they needed to do this well into construction of the park,” said Sherrod. “It’s certainly inconvenient, but unfortunately that’s the way it ended up working out.”

But the debacle would have been avoidable if the VA had gotten the ball rolling on the flood wall project at the time the Parks was building the playground, according to City Councilman Dan Garodnick.

“If the VA had built the flood wall during the time Parks was constructing the playground, we would have avoided this,” said Garodnick. “The VA now has an obligation to put the park back in the precise condition they found it in, and we are counting on that.”

The Parks Department went ahead with opening the park out of a commitment to finish the project on time, a spokeswoman said. 

Most of the park remains open despite the construction, including a turf field, a portion of the track, basketball courts and an outdoor pool. 

The VA will shoulder the cost of replacing the exercise equipment and rebuilding the portion of the track dug up in the construction of the flood wall, according to the Parks representative, who estimated full use of the park would be restored — with eight inches more usable space on its western edge — by spring of 2016.

The contractor building the flood wall  is working quickly to make sure the construction is as unobtrusive as possible, according to a VA representative. 

“J. Civetta and Sons recognizes that this encroachment into a public space presents a nuisance and therefore has affirmed that they are committed to complete all the necessary contractual work and to restore the Park in a timely manner,” said hospital spokeswoman Claudie Benjamin.