NYC Parks Commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff was joined by Deputy Bronx Borough President Marricka Scott-McFadden, state Sen. Jose M. Serrano, state Assemblywoman Amanda Septimo, son of Gil Scott-Heron, Rumal Rackley and family, and members of the community on Tuesday, Oct. 12, where they officially cut the ribbon on the $19.6 million Anchor Parks Phase II project and unveiled the newly renamed Gil Scott-Heron Amphitheater.
Launched by Mayor Bill de Blasio in August 2016, the Anchor Parks initiative committed a total of $150 million in city funding for major improvements at five large parks: Astoria Park in Queens, Highbridge Park in Manhattan, Betsy Head Park in Brooklyn, St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx and Freshkills Park on Staten Island. More than 750,000 New Yorkers live within walking distance of the five Anchor Parks. Each was selected based on historical underinvestment, high surrounding population and potential for park development.
“We are proud to cut the ribbon on this $19.6 million Anchor Parks project and unveil the renovated, newly named Gil Scott-Heron Amphitheater for the enjoyment of the people of the South Bronx,” Fialkoff said. “We thank Mayor de Blasio for this investment in the community which only further enhances the full recovery of our city, providing a wonderfully renovated greenspace for all to enjoy.”
The amphitheater, now the Gil Scott-Heron Amphitheater, has been renamed in honor of Gil Scott-Heron, a pioneering soul and jazz poet, musician and author. As a young man, he attended DeWitt Clinton High School and the Fieldston School in the Bronx.
The St. Mary’s Park Anchor Parks project was executed in two phases, outlined below:
Phase I: The first phase of construction will boast more than $10 million in improvements including two reconstructed ballfields, sports event seating, an expanded dog run with a water fountain, sports lighting, an ADA accessible seating area, new fencing and landscape upgrades with new planting beds. Construction is expected to be completed by next spring.
Phase II: Phase two of the $19.6 million Anchor Parks project at St. Mary’s Park will reconfigure the performance area with amphitheater seating, add new native plants to increase biodiversity in the park, install new park security lighting, update the drainage system throughout the park, renovate the 149th street plaza with new seating and spray shower (to be complete by the end of the year) and reconfigure paths and other paved areas with new stairs and stone walls to accommodate wheelchair accessible paths.