Parks commish opens gate talk

Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte (right) speaks to members of the Spencer Estate Civic Association during their meeting on Wednesday, May 21 discussing a proposed gate to Pelham Bay Park. - Photo by Patrick Rocchio

At a contentious meeting of the Spencer Estate Civic Association on May 21, residents expressed their anger to Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte over a proposed public access gate to a proposed waterfront promenade in Pelham Bay Park. 

The hour-long dialogue offered Aponte an opportunity to hear firsthand the opposition expressed by local residents since the plan was first unveiled early this year to place a gate for public access at the corner of Bayshore and Watt avenues.

“If you think I haven’t gotten it, I understand you don’t want the gate,” Aponte told the crowd, explaining that their complaints were being heard. 

Residents gave Aponte an earful, and several other possible access points to the promenade were discussed, including an existing path through the park and another rarely used gate at Library and Watt avenues. 

SECA president Al Carena stated that the project was at least a few years away, and said it was important that the group opened a dialogue with Parks about this issue.

“One thing I like about the commissioner is that he was gracious and understanding of our concerns,” Carena noted. “This is only the Parks Department’s vision; it is not a done deal.  That’s what makes these talks so important.”

The Parks Department is planning to build a promenade along the park’s waterfront, allowing the public access of Eastchester Bay. Parks will also re-naturalize part of the waterfront by removing obsolete pipes and rock. 

These plans are just fine with the residents of close-knit Spencer Estate, who feel the new boardwalk will be an added boon to the area.

However, area homeowners are adamantly opposed to public access at the corner of Bayshore and Watt avenues because they do not feel the site can be secured from illicit activities and that parking issues already plaguing the area will only get worse.

“By putting the gate there [at Bayshore and Watt], you are moving backwards into making this area a gateway to the park,” said resident Lauraine Androisoni.

“I live on Bayshore Avenue, and I don’t have parking now,”  Nick Argiento said. 

About his fears concerning any illegal activity in the area, Argiento added, “I see no policing of this area.”

 “This community needs a community patrol,” Michael Gigante added. “We should invest in a patrol car.”

Aponte tried to allay these fears and explained that by having a gate, much of the illegal dumping that takes place in the area, as well as fishermen who access the waterfront at all hours of the night, could be checked.

Residents were not convinced by the assurances and Aponte was taken aback by the crowd’s response to his proposal.

“I was a little disappointed that people are functioning off of fear and speculation of what might happen,” Aponte said after the meeting, “I’m frustrated I can’t convince them this will improve the area.”

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