Owen-Dolen reconstruction slated

Councilman Jimmy Vacca said that the removal of older checker tables in Owen Dolen Park (above) is a small step in a long journey in making the park into a destination. Photo by Victor Chu

A meeting held to bounce around ideas about what the new Owen Dolen Park and Recreation Center will look like and do for the community was held with Councilman Jimmy Vacca, the Department of Parks and Recreation, Westchester Square Merchants and Professionals Association, and WSZIO all having input.

The meeting, which was held on Thursday, November 20, brought together all of the players in the reconstruction of the centerpiece of Westchester Square, which will include $904,000 for the reconstruction of the recreation center from Croton Filtration Mitigation Funds, and $5 million in capital funds from Councilman Jimmy Vacca for the park itself over the next two years.

Bids are currently being put out for the contract to restore the Owen Dolen Recreation Center, after a long wait and a delay. Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte is working to ensure that the work starts sometime in early 2009.

“The scoping meeting turned into a brainstorming session, and I think Owen Dolen has fantastic potential,” said Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who is helping to spearhead the effort.

“We have already begun to enhance the programming offered at the Owen Dolen recreation center, and people should know it has computer and weight rooms.”

Vacca said that one of the principal challenges that the park now faces is that it needs to shed its image as merely a drop-off and pick-up point for busses.

Vacca stated that more immediately, the checker tables scattered throughout the park’s pathways need to be removed, as they are old and serve as a hang-out for all the wrong types.

He also said that a chain link fence around the park has to be replaced with something more aesthetically appealing.

“We have increased programming so far at Owen Dolen by bringing in Bronx Council on the Arts,” Vacca stated. “We hope that Owen Dolen will be a catalyst towards improving the commercial climate in Westchester Square.”

John Boinzio, president of the Association of Merchants and Professionals of Westchester Square, said that while he was under the impression that work would begin in the fall of 2008, despite the delay, he is pleased that Westchester Square will have a new, beautiful park.

“We are working on a redesign of the Owen Dolen Park so it will become a versatile community space, with a performance area for concerts and plays,” Boinzio stated. “We want to turn Westchester Square into a destination, and not just a place to pass through. Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte is working with Councilman Vacca to come up with a design that will benefit the area as a whole, both commercial and residential.’

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