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Owen-Dolen design snag halts construction

No work without permits. Further delay in the Owen Dolen Park renovation has the Westchester Square community demanding action.

In a meeting held on Friday, February 27, between representatives of the Department of Parks & Recreation, the Association of Merchants and Business Professionals of Westchester Square, and Councilman Jimmy Vacca, the first phase of the Owen Dolen Park and Recreation Center renovation was designed and set to begin this past April.

“When the project finally did begin, it was stopped just four days later because Parks failed to cover all their bases with the Department of Buildings,” said John Bonizio, president of the Westchester Square merchants.

According to the Department of Buildings, the plans submitted on Monday, May 11, were disapproved on Thursday, May 14, ‘because of a few administrative objections.’

Parks expects to resubmit the plans for review in early June and has requested the removal of any current debris.

“Usually, a renovation project without major alteration to the exterior building is submitted as an FYI to the Commission,” said a spokesperson for Parks. “In this case, DOB specifically asked that Parks submit the plans to the [Public Design] Commission for review, rather than as an FYI. We are complying with DOB’s request.”

According to Freddie Marji of Tuckahoe Construction Corporation, the hired contractors, they were waiting on Parks approval to begin the project and were instructed to start work on Monday, April 27, without the permits. On Friday, May 1 they were told to stop.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous and characteristic of the struggle these last 3 years,” said Sandi Lusk of the Westchester Square-Zerega Improvement Organization. “The center of Westchester Square should be a beautiful oasis. This is not acceptable.”

According to Vacca, who has allocated $ 5 million to contribute towards the $ 904,000 in Croton Mitigation funds for the reconstruction, this is an unnecessary delay.

“The Parks Department should have known that this approval was required,” said Vacca. “I expect the Parks Department to do whatever they have to do to get this back on track as soon as possible.”

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