NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Bronx man used his pandemic downtime to clean up a remote section of a New York City park, clearing brush, installing benches and drawing up plans for big improvements.
Some neighbors applaud his efforts, but the city Parks Department? Not so much.READ MORE: New York Weather: CBS2’s 10/23 Saturday Morning Forecast
Half-Moon Overlook in the Bronx has stunning views of the Palisades and the Hudson River. It’s a tiny sliver of the city’s 28,000 acres of municipal park land where one man is dreaming big.
“I was walking by here one day, and I realized that there’s a lot of potential in this park,” Riverdale resident Victor San Andres told CBS2’s Tony Aiello
San Andres noticed a walkway leading down from the overlook and took it upon himself to remove trash and chop away vegetation. He even installed benches and solar lighting.
He also cleared a large landing, saying he envisions adding flooring to the space.
“Where people can come down in the mornings and do yoga or meditation or something like that, so people can do it in nature,” he said. “It’s part of, like, what the pandemic did to a lot of people. They want to be outside.”
His unauthorized park work has plenty of supporters.READ MORE: Manhattan, Brooklyn Residents Sue City To Stop Permanent Outdoor Dining
“We all deserve access to this beautiful spot. Why not?” Riverdale resident Judy Kardos said.
Gene Westling appreciates his neighbor’s love of the park, but he fears the clearing away of vines and brush impacts coyotes and especially birds.
“His disturbing their environment right during the nesting season has been stressful for the birds,” he said. “I don’t see as many birds around here anymore.”
There’s also an obvious issue — can you imagine if everyone in New York City decided to claim a piece of public space as their own, and redo it to their liking?
The Parks Department told San Andres to stop his unsanctioned landscaping.
“We appreciate the spirit of volunteerism. It is important that the public work with our agency when they feel compelled to do projects in city parks,” the department said in a statement.
To drive home the point, a lock on the gate now bars access to the newly cleared area.MORE NEWS: 'Phantom Of The Opera,' Broadway's Longest Running Show, Resumes Performances
San Andres isn’t giving up, though. He’s trying to sell Bronx elected officials on his vision for Half-Moon Overlook. He hopes they’ll pressure the Parks Department to improve the space.