On bathrooms and bridges
Can you smell it? That’s spring wafting in.
And the long winter of stalled park projects due to contractor snafus seems to be melting away with the snow.
This week, the Van Cortlandt Park comfort station — read: bathrooms — opened at West 242nd Street and Broadway after much delay.
Big and little kids began playing on the park’s Parade Ground when the last fields opened in the fall after years behind fences. At last, they have a full season before them.
Finally, we can see some of the $240 million in Croton Water Filtration mitigation funds hard at work.
We cheer for these changes, though it could be argued that many of the improvements we are seeing now are simply deferred maintenance being passed off as major park improvements.
They are similar to fixes being made at North Riverdale’s Sid Augarten Field — which for years remained in disrepair no matter how much money our local representatives were willing to throw at the problem. The Parks Department has confirmed that Sid Augarten field, too, will be ready for Little League play this spring.
Projects within Community Board 8 that are, in fact, new and paid for with Croton mitigation funds include a controversial jogging path around the Jerome Park Reservoir. It is controversial because the department insists on setting it back from the water — for security reasons, they say — and ending it abruptly after it circles just two-thirds of the way around the reservoir.
Also, Parks has acquired land necessary to construct a portion of the Putnam Trail on the roadbed of a disused railroad right of way.
Now, if only we could get a long-promised pedestrian bridge to connect the two sides of Van Cortlandt Park over the Major Deegan Expressway, we’d be cooking.
However, despite a 1999 Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) agreement that listed building the bridge as a prerequisite for building the plant, the Department of Environmental Protection claims it doesn’t have the money to hold up its end of that bargain.
Almost since the moment construction began, Croton contractors have paid hefty fines for dodging contracting rules — fines they’re continuing to pay.
With that kind of money rolling in, surely, the DEP should be able find a way to meet the cost of its commitments. In the Bronx, that means keeping the promises it made more than a decade ago.
The long overdue bridge would clear a path for the unification of disparate parts of the borough by way of Vannie’s rustic trails. It would help show off all the park has to offer and give residents hope that, once in a while, government can earn our trust.