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‘Forgotten’ park gets first grant

Once a friendless park, University Woods in University Heights is at last increasing its circle, with Friends of the Woods, a new non-profit dedicated to its preservation, securing its first grant to create programming at the bucolic space.

Friends of the Woods is a group committed to shifting the current physical conditions and negative community perceptions of University Woods, a 3.306 acre park located between Sedgwick and Cedar avenues north of W. 180 Street. The park is located directly across the street from Bronx Community College.

Friends of the Woods, in existence since Fall 2006, was awarded a grant from Partnership for Parks to create some much needed positive programming at University Woods.

“The first grant will be used for a block party we are going to have on August 30,” said Brandy Cochrane, who founded the organization. “The day of the block party, we are going to perform a play in the park, and there will be a health fair, games, and arts and crafts.”

Friends of the Woods are co-hosting the block party, which will take place between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Cedar Avenue.

Cochrane said that she first stumbled upon the park by accident when she was retained as a broker of a piece of real estate across the street from University Woods.

“When I first walked in, I was amazed, and saw its potential,” Cochrane noted. “I said to myself that this would be a great place if fixed up. It was obviously neglected.”

Cochrane first arranged a walk-through with a representative of the Parks Department, and the agency began to clean the location more frequently.

Friends of the Woods also held clean ups of University Woods, every month from May through October 2007.

The park contains mostly trees, which serve as a natural canopy, with trails leading to spectacular water views of the Harlem River. One long-term goal Cochrane has is to fix the entrance to the park, which could use a facelift, encouraging neighborhood people to use the facility.

“Since we began our efforts, Parks has improved conditions by sending in cleaning crews to University Woods on a daily basis,” Cochrane continued. “We plan on having a cleanup of our own again later in the year, and to have a full program for Halloween in the park.”

Cochrane believes that once people get the chance to experience the space for themselves, they will want to come back.

“The reputation the park had wasn’t inviting and people didn’t want to come inside it,” Cochrane said. “Once they are able get into the park, they are amazed by it.”

Parks and Recreation and Partnership for Parks did not comment on the grant as of press time.

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