Officials Break Ground on New Fitness Project

Lizbeth Gonzalez (l), Councilman Vacca (6th from l), NYC Parks Commissioner Silver (c); Deputy Borough President Aureila Greene (4th from r), Community Board 10 chairman Martin Prince (3rd from r), Bronx Parks Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa (1st on r) and others broke ground for Pelham Bay Park’s new fitness equipment and nature walk.
Photo by Miriam Quin

City and borough officials broke ground on Tuesday, August 16 on new upgrades to Pelham Bay Park, including new fitness equipment and a nature walk.

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, said the project “will improve the recreational space here in Pelham Bay Park” and added it will be beneficial to people of all ages.

The project will include a pushup and pullup bar, sit-up and dip benches, in addition to other equipment.

The equipment will be installed by the track near Rice Stadium.

Councilman James Vacca, who allocated money for the project in 2014, said “promoting exercise is especially important” to him because “people who want to exercise outside should have the opportunity.”

He added that many people “do not have access to gyms or exercise centers.”

He also said anytime he has a chance to improve Pelham Bay Park he seizes it.

Vacca also pointed to the Bronx’s well-known health problem.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s County Health Ranking & Roadmaps Report ranked the Bronx number 62 out of 62 New York counties when it comes to the health of its residents.

“The Bronx should not have an obesity problem,” said Vacca, who allocated $416,000 for the project.

Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., who allocated $200,000 for the project, pointed to his ‘#Not62’ campaign which is an attempt to move up from the last place ranking.

He said borough parks are “critical to a healthier, happier Bronx” especially as the Bronx moves to complete it’s health goal.

Diaz also said the upgrades have “reinvigorated Pelham Bay Park” and provided a way for all types of people to “get fit and stay fit.”

In addition to the fitness upgrades, the project also includes a nature walk – officially known as Pond Walk – which was spearheaded by the Friends of Pelham Bay Park.

Judge Lizbeth Gonzalez, president of the organization, said the group wanted to “ensure that children of all abilities can experience nature up-close and in a playful way.”

She added the group wanted the fitness equipment in the park to make sure people of all income levels can stay fit.

The councilman contributed $100,000 to the nature walk and the Friends of Pelham Bay Park kicked-in another $15,000.

Vacca echoed Gonzalez’s sentiments saying it is “very important for our disabled community to have equal access to nature and the beauty that Pelham Bay Park represents.”

“Many of our seniors and our disabled don’t have that unless you provide accessiblity,” said Vacca.

He added that women with baby carriages should also be able to use the handicap accessible facilities.

The nature walk will have viewing areas along an accessible path with additional viewing areas around a small vernal pond in the park’s Playground for All Children.

The entire project is expected to be completed by summer 2017.

Reach Reporter Robert Christie at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at rchristie@cnglocal.com.

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