Square, WSZIO have plans for Owen Dolen

Owen Dolen Recreation Center, despite some bright news of late, has fallen into disrepair both in terms of programming and also infrastructure. Councilman Jimmy Vacca has pledged $2.5 million in this year’s budget for the center and surrounding park.

Owen Dolen Park, the much-abused center of what a coalition of three different groups hope will be a revitalization of the commercial and residential life of Westchester Square, is now the subject of a bold, new proposal.

Put forth by the Association of Merchants and Professionals of Westchester Square, the Westchester Square Zerega Improvement Organization, and the Bronx Council on the Arts, the 26-page report describes the current demographic environment of the square and uses it to paint a broad-strokes vision of a positive future.

The plan, now in discussion phase, seeks to infuse the much-abused Owen Dolen recreational space, adjacent to the IRT#6 train station, with programs appealing to young families and immigrants, realizing the demographic reality of the square. It also speaks of the dual-purpose of forming an economic partnership with artistic institutions. It is a plan for the future, with no set timetable for its completion.

“We have to exist in the Westchester Square community the way it is right now,” said John Bonizio, MPWS president, at a Committee for Community Growth and Development meeting. “It takes government a very long time to effect change. What I see next year are 1,000 fewer cops on the street and 200 more traffic enforcement agents, and a 7% increase in property taxes on my home.”

While the draft of the report is for discussion purposes only, it calls for bringing the Bronx Council on the Arts to Westchester Square to create a community where local artists and cultural programs help spur sustainable economic development.

“Westchester Square as a community possesses many assets that make it attractive to those seeking arts programs and services bringing many potential new customers to the area,” the report states.

The report calls for making the square a stop on one of the Bronx Culture Trolley’s tours, and calls for the creation of community programs focusing on parenting skills, children’s health, household management, English as a second language, and volunteer programs for teens at the Owen Dolen Recreation Center.

Helping to bring much needed funding to the dreams and aspirations of the three groups, is councilman Jimmy Vacca, who has pledged needed capital dollars to bring it to fruition.

“I allocated $2.5 million this year, and $2.5 million next year in the budget to have Owen Dolen turned into a first-class park,” Vacca said at the CCGD meeting on Saturday, November 15.

“Currently, there are a lot of landings in Owen Dolen Park where drunks and drug addicts can jump out and frighten people waiting for buses.”

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