Mixed grades for Bronx Parks

Seat-less bleachers align a neglected baseball field at St. Mary’s Park in Mott Haven.
Photo courtesy of New Yorkers for Parks

Three Bronx parks are getting praise for improvement, while two others aren’t making the grade.

According to a new report by New Yorkers for Parks—a non-profit organization that graded 43 of the New York City’s large parks— Soundview Park, Crotona Park and Claremont Park have all improved since the last survey was done in 2010, with Calremont’s grade jumping from a D to a B.

But, it wasn’t all good news for the borough.

St. Mary’s Park in the heart of the south Bronx, declined from a score of 89 in 2010 to 78 in 2012, while Seton Falls Park in Eastchester crashed from the top spot in the city in 2010 to second from the bottom in 2012.

Overall, a greater share of parks citywide earned A’s and B’s in 2012 and the average score climbed from 85 to 88, even as the Parks Department’s budget has been cut.

In the Bronx, the average park score was 81, with four of its five graded parks confined to the bottom quarter of the ranking and none achieving the citywide average score.

The survey did not cover parks larger than 500 acres or certain types, such as golf courses, beaches or ones undergoing big capital projects.

Claremont Park, once riddled with excessive litter and unmaintained paths, fields and courts, is now in much better condition thanks to lots of help from volunteer organizations.

“The low score in the 2010 Report [Card] gave us more incentive to focus on areas that needed improvement throughout the park. Taking that report to various community meetings, I think that helped us. We were able to show strong evidence for why Claremont Park needs more maintenance staff,” said Debra Myers, Friends of Mt. Eden Malls & Claremont Park.

“More volunteers must be recruited to continue to maintain Claremont Park,” she added. “In 2012 alone, we had Ernst & Young, NY Cares, and Friends of Mt. Eden Malls & Claremont Park—we had many different groups that came out, with the support of the Bronx Parks staff, which really helped.”

Although St. Mary’s and Seton Falls Parks did have lower scores compared to the other three large parks in the borough, the scores can vary widely among parks even in the same borough, based on factors such as park terrain and help from the surrounding community.

For example, although Seton Falls park earned a lower ranking than the other parks, it is also harder to maintain, due to its location and the natural areas and pathways. The park’s ranking declined because surveyors found broken glass, used condoms, drug paraphernalia and graffiti along the park’s paths and natural areas during last year’s summer inspections.

Soundview Park, a 205-acre waterfront park with $25 million in ongoing restoration projects, earned a B, as did Crotona Park north of Morrisania, with a lake.

Most of St. Mary’s challenges come from its hilly terrain, whose erosion requires extra care, but also from lack of community volunteerism. The Parks Department has had to do more with less, as its budget has decreased from $367 million in fiscal year 2008 to $338 million in the current fiscal year, leading to job cuts.

Some of those positions may soon return, as the mayor’s preliminary budget for next fiscal year calls for 414 new parks employees, mostly in maintenance.

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at ksanchez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

A broken step on a stairway in St. Mary’s park poses a hazard for Park goers.
Photo courtesy of New Yorkers for Parks

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