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Van Nest Playground expansion will increase parking

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According to the city Department of Transportation, Van Nesters don’t need to worry about any parking problems caused by the extension of the Van Nest Playground.

While the project to put in a Times Square-like promenade off the Van Nest Playground has led the DOT to remove 10 parking spaces in an area that is already lacking, the city plans to relocate the lost spaces and add several new parking spots nearby.

“They took away space because of the pedestrian project, and we didn’t know where the parking would go, so there has been a lot of worried people,” Bernadette Ferrera, vice-president of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance, said. “Because of the response from the community, we let the DOT know about the concerns we were hearing and said ‘you can’t do this, we need more space’.”

The city Department of Transportation has taken out a portions of Mead Street, from White Plains to Unionport roads, and Unionport Road, from Mead to Victor streets; and all the parking that went along with it. DOT officials said they will replace the spaces with parking in the immediate vicinity, and add spaces to the south of the bus stop on White Plains Road, and to the western edge of the park on Unionport Road and Van Nest Avenue, to compensate for the loss.

However, some residents are still concerned that the new space will not be as convenient as the spaces that were taken away.

“Our biggest thing here is parking problems, so closing that street is not the answer,” said Stanley McKay, who lives in the area. “If I go out at night, I’ve got to ride around the block, sometimes for an hour, before I can find a space. I’m a taxpayer, and now I can’t park in front of my house.”

Ferrera is confident the added spaces will be enough to accommodate everyone in the neighborhood.

“As long as we have our spaces back it’s good,” she said. “If this doesn’t work, we’ll have to seek another compromise. Parking is such a premium here.”

The roadways have been sectioned off and paved over as part of the project to expand the pedestrian area of the park, and to make the area safer for residents and drivers. According to the DOT, Mead Street had become a dangerous shortcut that motorists used when White Plains Road was congested.

City officials plan to make the area a green space with planters and benches for local residents to enjoy. It is part of a larger beautification project along White Plains Road.

Despite the uproar about parking, Ferrera said the new pedestrian space will be a benefit for the whole community.

“People are enjoying the fact that they can walk more, and this spring it will be completed and more lively,” she said. “Kids can hang out in there. It’s going to be a great addition where people can just stroll.”

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