Come out, come out, wherever you are! During the Bronx River Parkway public hearing this week this resounding cry seemed to be addressed at the Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe.
The hearing, held on Monday, July 20, brought in dozens of community residents, representatives from local organizations, Community Board 11 members and business owners.
They expressed their sincere disappointment at the closing of the Bronx River Parkway entrance at Birchall Avenue in 2005, pointing out the negative effects, including excessive traffic congestion, pollution, and many quality of life concerns.
“I have seen things get so backed up the police are not able to get through. How do you throw thousands and thousands more people into a neighborhood, but take away services like this,” said Arlene Mackin-Hyland, local business owner.
Larry Scoones, representing Parks, heard the community outcry. Scoones addressed the crowd, stating the ramps were created with the parkway, but were never intended for pedestrian use and therefore do not meet certain standards for public use. He went on to add that approximately 600 employees operate out of the headquarters, and the entrance was closed due to safety concerns for the employees.
Councilman Jimmy Vacca and representatives of Senator Jeff Klein and Senator Ruben Diaz were present to show their support for the community’s request to reopen the entrance.
“I think this has caused a major problem. We are in the face of a capital project, and if you think it’s backed up now, you ain’t seen nothing yet,” said Vacca. “I will call Commissioner Benepe tomorrow, the buck is on his desk. He has got to indicate he is responsive to community concerns.”
Despite disappointment at not seeing the commissioner’s personal appearance to answer questions, John Fratta, district manager of Community Board 11, offered to compromise on the matter, requesting the entrance open at least during rush hour in light of the pending Pelham Parkway reconstruction project.
“Parks has always said no to our community and the commissioner should have been here to tell us why he said no to our community again,” said Fratta. “This is just our first public hearing, this issue is far from over. Until we hear from Commissioner Benepe in a positive way, we will continue this fight.”