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Sandy-Damaged Inwood Nature Center Won't Reopen Until 2019, City Says

By Carolina Pichardo | January 19, 2016 4:01pm
 The Inwood Nature Center was shuttered after Hurricane Sandy, but is expected to reopen in Spring 2019, according to the city's Parks Department.
The Inwood Nature Center was shuttered after Hurricane Sandy, but is expected to reopen in Spring 2019, according to the city's Parks Department.
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DNAinfo/Carolina Pichardo

INWOOD — The disused Nature Center in Inwood Hill Park won't reopen for another three year after it shuttered due to water damage from Hurricane Sandy, officials said.

The center — which had been offering educational workshops and programs to residents on the history and natural habitat of Inwood Hill Park since 1995 — has been left unmaintained since 2012, when damage from the storm forced it to close.

But due to needed approvals from city agencies and the Federal Emrgency Management Agency (FEMA), the estimated time of opening will likely be in spring 2019, according to the Parks Department.

"Parks is eager to restore this educational resource to the community," Parks Department spokeswoman Crystal Howard said.

Restoration of the center, located on 218th Street off Indian Road, is being addressed in stages, Howard explained.

A capital upgrade for the restrooms to make it ADA-compliant needed to be completed before the city could start work on the sewer line, which is set to begin in September, according to the Parks Department. The restroom renovations have already been completed.

The bathrooms are expected to open before the center in fall of 2017. At that point, the entrance to the restrooms will be accessible to the general public, whereas the only entry point previously was through the center.

As for the interior design of the center, the agency will hold a public scoping meeting in February to gather ideas from the public through Community Board 12.

The resulting plan, including input from the scoping meeting, will then be reviewed by the city's Public Design Commission, Office of Management and Budget, comptroller's office, Law Department, Department of Investigation and FEMA.

Once the design and cost are finalized, the city can begin the competetive bidding process to choose a contractor for the project, which will be funded through FEMA. 

Funding for the restoration of the center's exhibits, which included models of ecosystems and historical images of the park, is currently being reviewed by FEMA.

The cost of the entire project is $3.18 million, including $1 million from the mayor's office, $600,000 from the City Council, $491,378 from FEMA and just over $1 million from the Parks Department's capital budget.

Meanwhile, the Parks Department said it would continue to host events previously held at the Inwood Nature Center at the Payson Parkhouse on Dyckman Street.

In 2012, just before the Nature Center closed, the agency had decreased its hours of operations due to budget cuts.

"The nature center is a true gem in our community," said Shah Ally, chairman of Community Board 12. "It is only one of three nature centers in Manhattan and the only one not located in Central Park."

The public scoping meeting, hosted by CB12's Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee and the Parks Department, will take place on Thursday, Feb. 4, at 6:30 p.m. at the Payson Center on Payson Avenue and Dyckman Street.