Owen Dolen Park Reconstruction Delayed

The long awaited reconstruction of Owen Dolen Park may have to wait a little bit longer.

The second phase of the $5 million reconstruction project was scheduled to begin in July, but relocation of underground wiring that is part of Con Edison’s service system may delay the project.

A representative from Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who provided most of the funding for the project, the contractor, the Department of Parks and Recreation and Con Edison met on Wednesday, July 13 to discuss issues related to underground wiring.

“This is the latest of a series of hold-ups to this project, and we are pressing for this job to be finished and hope that Con Edison can work with us because we are tired of inordinate delays,” Vacca said. “We are expecting a time-table from Con Edison so that we can move forward with this project.”

The frustration that the Association of Merchants and Business Professionals feel about this and a series of other delays to the second phase of construction is well-understood and appreciated, Vacca said.

The reconstruction on Owen Dolen Park, which has been going on or being planned for six years, should include a raised platform for artistic and musical performances that will be visible from most points in the Square itself.

The new performance space should compliment the recent relocation of Bronx Council on the Arts’s headquarters to 2700 E. Tremont Avenue. Now, however, the July start date could be pushed back, even though a contractor has been selected and work was set to begin.

“The construction at Owen Dolen Park is tentatively set to begin in July, pending coordination with Con Edison’s work schedule,” Parks spokesman Zachary Feder said. “As with any construction project that impacts Con Edison’s infrastructure, we are working with them to ensure the site is safe for renovations to begin.”

The reconstruction of Owen Dolen Park is absolutely essential to the formation of the Business Improvement District in the Square, which is set to go before the City Council for review, said BID steering committee chairman John Bonizio.

Any delay in the park, which could be a magnet drawing in potential shoppers through cultural programming, might hamper revitalization efforts that are a pivotal part of the BID plan, he said.

“I made it very clear to the councilman’s office that contrary to the way Parks normally does things, the process needs to be completely transparent so the merchants and residents know what to expect,” Bonizio said.

A portion of Benson Street used to run through the park, which contained Con Edison transmission lines, Con Edison needs to move the lines around the park before reconstruction happens, Bonizio said.

Con Edison is playing a supplemental role in the reconstruction of the Park, and the utility is working to coordinate with the City and Parks Department to facilitate the construction, which may require movement of some of the wiring, Con Edison spokesman Rolando Infante said.

Infante said that the meeting on July 13 was productive, but that Con Edison will have to work with the Parks Department and contractor to come up with a timetable for the work another meeting.

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