Owen-Dolen Center renovations scheduled

After falling into disrepair and becoming an eyesore to the local Westchester Square Community, residents have learned that the Owen Dolen Recreation Center will finally receive the repairs it desperately needs. - Photo by Walter Pofeldt

After years of neglect by a variety of city agencies, Parks and Recreation has finally committed to a nearly $1 million revamp of the Owen Dolen Recreation Center in Westchester Square.

As part of monies related to the $220 million dollar grant to Bronx parks under the deal bringing the Croton Filtration Plant to Van Cortlandt, the center will receive a $904,930 face lift, including repair to the roof of the Center, as well as the removal of a concrete sitting area nearby and landscaping.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall, with hope that work may start even sooner. The design was completed on February 15, but so far no one in the community has seen the plans for the center.

“As of this time, I have yet to see a design plan for Owen Dolen,” said Sandi Lusk, of the Westchester Square Zerega Improvement Organization. “We have total faith that Parks is going to do what they say, but I want to make sure it is done in a timely manner.”

The center, which includes youth and senior programs, as well as a gym and computer room, remains underutilized as leaks in its condemned roof make much of the building unusable.

The parkland around the center has been fenced off for over a year, with only narrow paths cutting through the greenery at the crossroads of Westchester Square. Concrete and other debris has been falling off the roof of the center, into the park. A sitting area on top of the roof is no longer in use because of the threat it posses to public safety. 

Lusk said the place is an eyesore, and the roping off of the area hasn’t made what should be the gateway to the shopping district any more attractive.

“It has been neglected for a very long time,” Lusk continued. “It used to be a haven for drug addicts, but I went by there this morning, and didn’t see any needles.”

Many feel the revitalization of the recreation center is long overdue, and that its current condition posses a threat to public health and safety.

“It is ridiculous. You have children in the Center, and the roof over their heads has been condemned,” said John Bonizio, president of the Westchester Square Merchants Association and general manager of the nearby Metro Optics.

Bonizio said Bronx Parks commissioner Hector Aponte said that the project is currently out to bid, with plans moving forward to bring it to fruition.

Bonizio expressed frustration at what he considers red-tape holding up the redevelopment of the Square.

“The Owen Dolen recreation center is another example of how nothing gets done in Westchester Square by the city until things are falling apart,” Bonizio stated. “It is unfortunate that merchants and residents have to be up in arms before the city decides to do anything. It is just a complete and utter lack of respect for the area.”

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