Local residents are taking back their beloved park.
With a massive increase in cleanliness in University Woods, the local community group, The Friends of the Woods can aptly take credit for the restoration of a neighborhood resource.
The group was organized with a commitment to shifting the current and past 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.
Before their clean-up efforts began, the park had become a wasteland of trash, discarded materials, and a hangout for thieves and drug addicts.
Concerned University Heights residents, and even some from other parts of the Bronx, have reclaimed the park, cleaning it up once a month in 2007, and several times this year.
“Before we could even enter the Woods, we had to convince the Parks Department to patch up the stairways leading from Sedgwick Avenue into the park, and get them to remove evasive vines blocking the trails,” said program director Brandy Cochrane. “For awhile, Parks had shut down several of the stairways leading into University Woods for safety issues.”
In addition to being a dumping ground for massive amounts of litter, and personal household items, it appears the park also became a depository for debris from construction sites.
“We used to see the dumping of concrete, bricks, and fencing at the park, likely from contractors,” Cochrane explained. “There was also debris from stolen and stripped cars, auto parts – everything from tires to dip-sticks, which would clog the different paths running through the park from Sedgwick and Cedar avenues.”
Now, the paths that run throughout University Woods are no longer filled with garbage, and there are fewer reports of drug use or other illicit activities taking place in the park at night.
Cochrane would like to see the park lit at night, hoping it serves as a sign that people will not tolerate others abusing it.
“People in the neighborhood see the positive improvements to University Woods, and now we are picking up less trash and litter than before,” Cochrane noted. “We filled one bag of trash during a recent clean-up, and were amazed, because it used to take many to haul away all of the trash.”
As a reward, Friends of the Woods, in existence since Fall 2006, will co-host the University Heights Block Party at the park’s center on August 30 with a legendary figure attending.
“D.J. Kool Herc took an interest in the park, recalling the days when he used to play manhunt in University Woods as a youngster,” Cochrane noted. “We are told he is planning to attend and play at the block party.”
Cochrane said she is delighted that the Jamaican-born hip-hop pioneer thinks favorably about the park, joining volunteers from all walks of life who have participated in numerous clean-ups of the space, the most recent one occurring on August 23.
Cochrane first became aware of the park while working for a real estate agency that had a listing for a house across the street. She thought that the neglected space had potential.
“Our main goals right now are to fix the trails, build a performing space in the center of the park, and possibly put in a dog-run,” Cochrane explained. “We don’t want to do something totally new with the space, we want to keep it natural.”
For more information on Friends of the Woods, call (718) 228 - 9309, or visit them on the web at www.uniwoods.com.
©2008 Community News Group