Children, skaters get new River Ave park

Bronxites living around Yankee Stadium now have a place for free fun and exercise, and skaters have a place to pop ollies and grind boards legally.

On Tuesday, August 31, officials with the city Parks Department cut the ribbon on a $6 million facility that includes a skate park and playground on River Avenue.

“We paved over a parking lot and put up a paradise,” parks commissioner Adrian Benepe said to the roughly 50 students from Camp Discovery that attended the event.

The park complex is bisected by 157th Street, with the playground on the northern side.

Along with standard play equipment, the facility includes lighting, benches, a drinking fountain and beautiful landscaping, among other things. The elevated train passes above the site every few minutes, so fountains and lights will be activated by rumbling vibrations as the cars go by.

On the southern side of the complex lies the skate park, which was designed with input from members of the skateboarding community, city officials said.

The facility includes half-pipes, ramps, stairs, rails, ledges, benches, banks, gaps, transition elements, a small seating area and a green space for spectators to enjoy.

“I have to celebrate every time we get a new park,” Congressman Jose Serrano Sr. said. “Each one is better than the next. This is a beautiful one and it’s ours to enjoy.”

Although some of the children in attendance were excited to play on the see-saws, swings and the brightly painted state-of-the-art jungle gym, the majority was ready to hop in the sprinklers and cool off. And so were many of the city officials.

“As soon as this is over, we’re going to turn on the fountains and I’m going to come in with you,” Benepe said.

Kally Mellcy, of Fordham, was disappointed her grandmother wouldn’t allow her to play in the fountains, but she felt content to climb the jungle-gym and play on the swings.

“I like going here,” she said. “I wish I could stay all day and then sleep here.”

The park is part of the city’s $195 million project to restore recreational facilities that were demolished to make way for the new Yankee Stadium. Other facilities include the recently completed Mill Pond Park and Heritage Field, which is a multi-use sports complex under construction on the site of the old Yankee Stadium.

“This one is really nice and very different,” Sofia Velez, a teacher at Camp Discovery, said. “It’ll be nice to have more parks like this that we can take the kids to.”

For John Stemma, a Brooklyn resident, having a skating facility where he can legally practice his moves is worth a trip to the Bronx.

“It’s fun. There’s a bunch of different stuff you can do on the street, but most of this is actually better than what you find going around on the street,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s more fun to get kicked out of places, but here we can just chill and skate.”

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