As springtime approaches, one historic south Bronx park will be coming into full bloom once more.
On Wednesday, March 4, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, joined with Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mott Haven community members during a public forum to design an upcoming $1.5 million reconstruction for St. Mary’s Playground West.
In addition, the event aimed to discuss a broader vision for the park’s future.
“St. Mary’s is the largest park in the south Bronx, and an incredible space that brings people from all over the borough together,” said Commissioner Silver. “Council Speaker Mark-Viverito’s support will allow us to take the first step in transforming this park into the high quality, highly activated hub that the south Bronx deserves. We look forward to working hand in hand with community stakeholders as we create a vision for the future of St. Mary’s.”
St. Mary’s 35 acres are heavily used, however the park has not witnessed any major capital investment in the past 20 years.
Due to $1.5 million allocated by Mark-Viverito, NYC Parks will renovate St. Mary’s Park West’s 2.5 acres and its design will be guided through local community input.
Following open remarks and a presentation on the park’s current condition, participants divided into groups for parks facilitator-led discussions where ideas and top priorities for the funded reconstruction were shared.
At the meeting’s conclusion, these groups presented their findings which NYC Parks planning staff will use to guidethem in the renovation’s final design.
In attendance were members of the Friends of St. Mary’s Park, the Mexican American Students Association, Harvest Home Farmer’s Market, as well as family and administration from P.S. 277 and the Academy for Language Technology.
According to Jennifer Sun, NYC Parks Project Development director, the majority of ideas presented pertained to making the area more environmentally friendly and increasing the recreational activities offered at the park.
One notable idea includes possibly restoring St. Mary Park’s West’s tennis courts or replacing them with another amenity the community might favor.
She added NYC Parks is still in the process of synthesizing the extensive amounts of feedback received from the meeting. The input collected will aid NYC Parks in advocating for additional funding for the park.
Sun confirmed that NYC Parks will meet with Community Board 1 later this month to present a preliminary schematic design for St. Mary’s West which will allow further feedback from the community.
In addition to St. Mary’s Park West, she noted there are nine other Bronx parks scheduled for renovation during this same time period and all, including St. Mary’s Park West, are slated for a 2017 completion.
The Community Parks Initiative includes Hunts Point Playground, Longfellow Garden, Little Claremont Park, Lyons Square Playground, Melrose Commons Site 32, Playground 52, Ranaqua Park, Seabury Park, and Saw Mill Playground. The total investment for these parks is approximately $36 million.
St. Mary’s Park is one of six original Bronx parks and was opened as the borough’s first playground in 1914.
In 1951, the city’s first full-service indoor recreational center opened there and was home to an indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, locker and shower rooms, and meeting rooms for classes as well as community programs.
Today these facilities still exist and are used frequently. It is reported that over 133,000 people participated in programs and events at the recreational center during the 2014 fiscal year, an almost 30% increase from the previous year.