Two Bronx parks are winners in this year’s Parks Without Borders competition

Entrances and exits to two local parks will be spruced up after they won awards in this year’s Parks Without Borders contest.

Hugh Grant Circle and Virginia Park both located outside Parkchester, as well as Van Cortlandt Park’s West 242nd Street entrance, were winners in this year’s competition after a long feedback gathering process.

Parks Without Borders gathers community ideas on how to make parks more inviting by focusing on making them easier to find, more accessible, as well as by expanding the beauty of the parks out into communities and creating vibrant public spaces by transforming underused areas, according to the NYC Parks Department.

Eight citywide parks will be allotted $40 million from capital budget funding, with the rest going to parks still to be announced.

“The Parks Without Borders design concept will allow us the opportunity to enhance the major entrance at West 242nd Street at Van Cortlandt Park, making it more inviting and much more accessible, said Bronx Parks Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa. “At Virginia Park/Hugh Grant Circle, we have an opportunity to create more access points that connect park goers to the rest of the surrounding neighborhood.”

The next step will be to gather more insight from communities near the parks about the changes they would like to see, said Rodriguez-Rosa.

Design is expected to begin in the fall, stated a Parks Department spokesman.

Online voting and interaction gathered ideas about parks around the five boroughs, and some $10 million additional in renovations will make the other parks more accessible.

Community Board 9 district manager William Rivera said that the board’s parks committee and an urban planning fellow who helped the board survey all of the parks in the district, as well as community activist Nilka Martell of local non-profit Getting Involved, Virginia Avenue Efforts, all helped CB 9 go above and beyond in soliciting community input on to how best revitalize Hugh Grant Circle and Virginia parks.

“When we saw (Parks Without Borders) we thought of Hugh Grant Circle because it has not been renovated since…1956,” said Rivera, adding “It is a huge hub with a lot of foot traffic.”

CB 9 believed that the parks, adjacent to and right across the street from the busy Hugh Grant Circle IRT 6 station met the criteria for Parks Without Borders because the effort looks for greenspace near high-foot-traffic areas or transit hubs that were underutilized.

The parks themselves have fences that make much of the greenspace out-of-reach to the public, said Rivera.

Martell said that CB 9 gathered letters of support for the project from elected officials, and said that she hopes that the space could be use to celebrate the diversity of nearby communities.

“It is not going to be completed until 2020, but we are really excited and we have all these ideas about activating the space,” said Martell.

Christina Taylor, of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, said that the group worked with the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy to advocate for the park in this year’s Parks Without Borders.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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