Residents tired of Van Nest Park neglect

The residents of Van Nest are hoping to see the neglected Van Nest Park, found by the intersection of Van Nest Avenue and Unionport Road, renovated for the safety of children and prevention of illegal activities. Photo by Amanda Marinaccio

After a long time of neglect, the residents of Van Nest are demanding their park receive attention.

Van Nest Park, found near Van Nest Avenue and Unionport Road, consists of three parcels of land. The first piece of land is .321 acres containing a jungle gym, swings and other amenities, surrounded by a short fence. The second piece of land accounts for .08 acres, featuring a monument honoring the soldiers of World War I. The final piece of land is considered a green street, at.029 acres.

The last renovation to occur was funded in 1997 through former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, costing approximately $30,000.

Since then time and the elements have worn down the park. The low fence allows easy access to vandals and illegal activities when the park is closed.

The area remains an active location for the 49th Precinct to cover, with six arrests noted in the vicinity since 2008.

“We are out there and focusing on that area,” said Captain John Greely of the 49th Precinct.

Residents feel however, that many of the incidents occurring in the area can be attributed to the low fence and poor maintenance of the park.

“Attention to this park is long overdue. For some reason this park was neglected, and whether it’s the excuse of whose responsibility it is to repair the park, it has to be done,” said Joe Bombace, of Community Board 11. “It has to be safeguarded and secured.”

According to community activist Bernadette Ferrara, safety issues are a concern for the children playing in a dirty park, who may run after a ball the escapes over the fence into the dangerous street.

“This park is used constantly, it’s the only park around this area. In the evening it’s supposed to be closed and if they had a higher fence people wouldn’t be hanging out in there,” said Ferrara. “It really needs to be totally revamped with equipment added for the families bringing their kids there.”

John Fratta of CB 11 hopes that in addition to a renovation, the park will be expanded, demapping certain streets, connecting the parcels of land to create one larger park.

“Van Nest Park is a popular community park and if funding is allocated, we would be happy to enhance the park,” said a spokesperson from the Department of Parks and Recreation. “The reconstruction and expansion of the park (to include Victor Street up to the Van Nest Memorial) was estimated in FY2009 (last year’s estimate) at a cost of $1 million.”

Councilman Jimmy Vacca, with the cooperation of Councilman Joel Rivera, is aware of and currently investigating the matter.

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