Demanding Answers: Why Are Residents Waiting Years For Repairs At City Parks?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For some New Yorkers, the nice weather doesn’t mean enjoying a visit to their local park. That’s because across the city they’re still waiting — sometimes for many years — for parks and playgrounds to be rebuilt.

“It’s not fair to all of us. It’s not fair to all of us kids,” Hormandi Pichardo told CBS2’s Mary Calvi.

What’s not fair, 7-year-old Pichardo said, is that he can’t play in his local park — Claremont in the Bronx — which was shut down due to faulty construction in 2009, and won’t re-open until 2018.

That’s not the only parks project moving at a snail’s pace. Luther Gulick Park in lower Manhattan is taking 7 years to complete. In St. Nicholas Park in Harlem it’s taking 8 years just to renovate a bathroom.

“It should never take that long,” one resident said.

From the Parks Department’s own website, CBS2 identified more than 40 projects taking five years or more to complete; a bathroom in Ferry Point Park – 11 years, and seven years just to install a staircase in Fort Tryon Park.

Ironically, even the headquarters of the Parks Capital Division, responsible for all of the projects is itself delayed, and $3-million over budget.

“This is a nightmare. This is a symbol, the symbol of the Capital Division, they couldn’t even get this right,” Parks Advocate Geoffrey Croft said.

CBS2 sat down with Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver to demand some answers.

“I found the timeline shocking,” he said.

Silver said it’s not his fault. He said he inherited virtually all of the stalled projects when he came on board in 2014.

“The good news is moving ahead. We now have new systems in to insure that these delays will not happen,” he said.

He said everything from regulatory reviews to difficulty finding contractors and the high cost of labor added to delays, but he said systems are being streamlined, and it’s paying off.

“Last year 23 percent of our projects were ahead of schedule, and we’re seeing the benefits of these new changes,” he said.

But parks city council committee chairman Mark Levine said with three years on the job Silver still isn’t moving fast enough, and as a result, funds are drying up.

“Some of them feel they’ll actually be out of office before the parks are open to the public,” Levine said.

In Claremont Park, community leaders said they’ve waited so long, they’re resigned to waiting longer.

“I wish they had made this a priority, but that fact that we’re in the plan. I’m happy as long as our turn comes and comes soon, then I’m good with it,” Abraham Jones said.

Claremont Park is scheduled to open next spring, and commissioner Silver said he will be there to cut the ribbon.

 

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