City celebrates opening of River Ave. pocket parks

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Bronx children pose at the new River Ave. pocket park. (Photo courtesy NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation)

Five years ago, city politicians and Yankee officials celebrated the groundbreaking for new Yankee Stadium, and as they did, the South Bronx lost a significant chunk of its green space. Although the plans for the new stadium called for replacement parks scattered throughout the neighborhood, with the slicing and dicing of Macombs Dam Park, the neighborhood lost a focal point for athletics and play. This week, though, the city celebrate progress, if a bit sluggish, in replacing these parks.

City politicians and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe gathered on Tuesday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for two River Ave. pocket parks. Featuring a playground for kids and skate plaza, the park is located aside the elevated tracks of the 4 train at around E. 157th St. “Thanks to $6 million in funding from the Yankee Stadium redevelopment program, there’s a brand new place to go rolling on River Avenue,” Benepe said. “The skate plaza on the south, and playground on the north are two examples of the city’s commitment to expanding fitness and recreation opportunities in the South Bronx.”

Both the skate plaza and playground are located on the sites of former parking lots, and the city worked with the community to design and incorporate the parks into the urban landscape. The skateboarding community suggested numerous features including half-pipes, ramps, stairs, rails, ledges, gaps and other elements for their area, and this park alos includes a bit of green space. It is, says Parks in a press release, “one of city’s first skate parks to use traditional New York City Parks materials, and references elements from the city’s past and present.”

The playground, meanwhile, uses the subway to the delight of children. It features spray fountains and lights that are turned on as subway trains pass by. It must be particularly exciting on a day such as today when post-game 4 trains bound for Manhattan clank by every 2-3 minutes.

In unveiling these parks, the city proclaimed its $195 million investment in new parks surrounding the stadium, and while praise for these projects is warranted, the parks have often seemed like an afterthought. This skate park was supposed to open in 2007, and Bronx residents will still be waiting at least another year before the Heritage Field centerpiece is ready for play. Still, progress is progress, and the city is slowly putting a not-so-flattering chapter of community development behind it.

A skater jumps the gaps at the new plaza. (Photo courtesy of NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation)
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  • Thomas Beck

    One criticism I often read about the proposed replacement parks was that they would be difficult to access due to highways and other impediments as well as distant from where neighborhood residents really live. Is that the case with these two new parks? Are they easily reachable for kids – do they have to cross highways and train tracks to get to them or have provisions been made in this regard?

  • Mike Nitabach

    The new pocket parks are right on River Avenue, and are easily accessible at street level from the neighborhood surrounding Yankee Stadium. I walked past the skate park on Saturday after the game, and it was filled with kids who looked like they were having a great time.

    The park that is being built at the site of the old stadium is a bit further away from the neighborhood, but it should be plenty accessible. There is also a new park right along the East River and south of the old and new stadium sites that is quite nice.

    While all of this may seem less convenient than how things were before, people and neighborhoods adapt quite well to change. Over time, the handwringing about how the new stadium “ruined everything” will die out, and people of the South Bronx will enjoy the benefits of improved recreational infrastructure.

  • Robert Carrillo

    Progress is Progress…

    Sorry to rain on the parade, but several things jump out:

    1. “The skate plaza on the south [is an] example of the city’s commitment to expanding fitness and recreation opportunities in the South Bronx.”
    Really? For $6 million all we got was a seasonal outdoor skate park that is no more than 3,000 square feet and under a train track.

    2. “The city worked with the community to design and incorporate the parks into the urban landscape.” They forgot to mention that they only asked the community after they decided a skate park was what the community really needed. I dare say if you asked the community, “What would you like us to build with $6 million?” that the answers would have been “a lot more than a skate ‘park’.”

    3. I don’t think people in the community have said the new stadium “ruined everything.” In fact, most of the community was in support of the stadium as long as the community got benefits. A skate park, a 10 acre park of 3 baseball fields, a small playground under train tracks, and an artificial turf field on top of a parking garage do not really constitute as benefits to the community. How about not building any more parking garages? Or, taking that $6 million and building an indoor play area (creating jobs, a safer environment for kids, a year-round facility, etc.)?

    Without a doubt things are getting done – just not enough. Not enough in a community that is home to the poorest congressional district in the country…not enough to a community that is the epicenter of asthma…and AIDS…

    But, progress is progress.