After hearings, questions on Ferry Point proposals remain

Residents have questions about opposing plans for Ferry Point Park, including the western side used by numerous soccer and cricket leagues on weekends.
Community News Group / Arthur Cusano

Two public hearings earlier this month offered a slew of new information on competing plans for Ferry Point Park.

A proposal by Trump Links at Ferry Point to expand the golf course in exchange for renovating other land in the park and creating a nearby nature preserve was presented in addition to an NYC Parks Department proposal to use the same waterfront land Trump Links wants to develop to create passive park space while continuing its rehab of the western half of the Bronx park.

Community Board 10 chairman Martin Prince said the board was waiting to get its hands on the official Trump Organization proposal. The proposal was initially submitted to the Parks Department, he said.

“They said they submitted it to [Parks] because the Parks Department is their landlord, so that’s slowing things down,” Prince said.

Prince said he expected the board to be able to vote on the proposal at its next committee meeting in January.

But would that vote carry any weight? The community board’s role is simply an advisory one, said Parks media relations director Crystal Howard.

The mayor’s office rejected the Trump Links proposal last month, citing desire to keep the waterfront land public.

“The city is moving forward to implement its plan for the new waterfront park,” she added.

One of the main reasons given by Trump Links for expanding the 17th and 18th holes is to make the course attractive for a potential PGA major tournament, such as the U.S. Open.

An event of that nature could not be a possibility for at least another decade, said Jeff Altstadter, assistant director of Public Relations for the United States Golf Association.

“U.S. Open sites have been announced through 2026 and we do not have any scheduled to be held at Trump Links,” Altstadler said.

He said while major golf tournaments have been held in the suburbs around New York City such as Winged Foot in the Westchester County town of Mamaroneck and at Bethpage State Park on Long Island, one has never been held in the city itself for various reasons.

Residents have voiced concern about crime and vandalism in the park, as well as overcrowding and lack of bathrooms.

Friends of Ferry Point Park president Dorothea Poggi said soccer and cricket leagues take over the park every weekend, and fighting, indecent exposure, gambling and illegal fool and alcohol vending aren’t unusual sites.

“You have thousands of soccer players drinking and peeing everywhere,” she said. “They break every park rule every day.”

Poggi said the parks department’s $9 million proposal isn’t enough to make either side of the park safer or sufficiently upgrade facilities, and has thrown her support behind the Trump Links proposal.

“I feel they can’t police that side, so let someone else do it,” she said.

Ferry Point Civic Association president Joann Sohmers has also come out in support of the Trump Links proposal, due to many of the same concerns Poggi has over the ongoing lack of police presence and lack of improvements by the parks department.

“I don’t trust them to do it quickly, or at all,” she said.

In the early afternoon of Thursday, November 17 the park was empty of visitors, save for three men fishing near the southwestern end.

No Park Enforcement Patrol members or NYPD officers were to be found, and three young men were able to enter the park on unlicensed dirt bikes and pop wheelies up and down the asphalt walking path for several minutes, seemingly without any fear of police action.

Poggi said ATV and dirt bike riders have been an ongoing problem even before Trump Links was built.

Bronx Parks Commissioner Iris Rosa Rodriguez said the number of Parks Enforcement Patrol officers patrolling the borough would be increased from 25 to 50 next year, but could not say for certain how many of those officers, if any, would be roaming Ferry Point Park on a regular basis.

While residents have lamented the lack of bathrooms at the park, a construction crew was busy at work building the first comfort station in the park in almost two decades. The project is expected to be completed by summer 2017.

New York City Parks Advocates founder Geoffrey Croft has followed the development of the course for over a decade.

He called the Trump Links claim that a public park adjacent to the course would be unsafe due to flying golf balls “absurd” and criticized the lack of revenue in the current contract.

While the course generated $8 million in revenue in its first year of operation, Croft said the current competitively-bid awarded contract allows the Trump Organization to pay the city nothing during its first four years of operation. In addition, the city pays for the course’s sewer and water costs.

The contract also allows the Trump Links management to raise green fees with little oversight, and the cost of playing at the course has already increased significantly in the brief time it has been open.

Croft also said the western part of Ferry Point Park was in need of far more work than whatever the Trump organization was willing to spend or raise from its business partners.

“That park needs $100 million worth of work,” he said.

Calls to Councilman James Vacca, who represents the 13th district, were not returned by press time.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com.

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