We had our monthly Commissioner meeting on Thursday with Manhattan Park's Commissioner William Castro. Unfortunately, the Commissioner was unable to make the meeting and his assistant Steve Simon stood in for the Commissioner. Below is a summary of what was reported on as well as attendees.
RECENTLY COMPLETED AND UPCOMING PROJECTS
Park Manager Paul Evans led the group through recently completed projects and capital projects slated for 2007.
1. 141st Street Playground and Basketball Courts: Resurfacing for the courts are planned this year as well as some upgrades to the playground area. Resurfacing of the courts usually take 8 weeks to complete and would require the courts to be closed for that time. There was concern about when the scheduled work is planned to take place. Originally, the resurfacing was scheduled for this summer, but many at the meeting voiced concern about the timing since the courts are used most during the warm summer month, when many youth programs and tournaments take place. Steve Simon suggested that is resurfacing cannot happen earlier in the year, it should happen in the fall perhaps October.
2. Lower Path from 132nd street and 135th street along St. Nicholas Avenue: The paths here are in dire need of repaving and drainage. Work will commence this year 2007 on repaving and drainage improvement.
3. Upper Path from 131st Street to 135th Street and St. Nicholas Terrace: This work will include a full overhaul of the drainage and repaving of the upper pathway. New lights will also be installed along the pathway. Also, a water system is being installed for the plantings along the pathway as part of this capital project. Unfortunately, a water line to the new dog run will not be included into the scope of work for this project since the work stops short of 135th street. If more funding can be given from the city council or another source, then parks would be able to begin work planned for 2008 for upper path renovations north of 135th street earlier, where a water line would make more sense to include in scope. Project Manager Bob Redmond stated that as part of the 135th street to 139th street path reconstruction the overhaul of the dog park including permanent fencing could be included.
Possible funding sources includes Councilman Jackson securing funding through the city for this work. Friends of St. Nicholas Park feels that a water line should be a priority in order to enhance the new dog run .
4. Sidewalks on St. Nicholas Avenue from 130th Street to 137th Street: Work involves reconstruction of dilapidated sidewalks on St. Nicholas Avenue. Time of construction start: TBD.
5. Staircase and adjacent landscaping at 130th Street (completed): This project was completed last year. The whole reconstruction of the staircase and the surrounding landscaping cost a total of $1 million. Park manager Paul Evans cited a couple of other staircase that may require similar renovations - mostly 138th street and 133rd street internal staircases in the park.
Outreach to Dorm: Park Manager Paul Evans had a meeting with the Dormitory Director at City College to brainstorm ways for the Towers dorm at City College to engage students to become more active in the park. Rebecca Scott from Partnership for Parks will follow up on the meeting and will outline ideas for student activity in the park.
Hamilton Grange: Community Board 9 was presented with the plans for moving the Grange from its current location on Convent Avenue to its new location within St. Nicholas Park. The board had a problem with the proposal to face the house Northeast instead of its original historical foundation which faced Northwest. Their concern involved internal structures such as mirrors in the house that captured a certain feeling when the house is facing southwest. The proposed area for the Grange is on the hill sloping toward the Northeast right on the parcel of land between 141st and 140th street and St. Nicholas Avenue. The Southwest direction has the Grove School of Engineering in front of it and would not look good to face the building into the Engineering building on an upward sloping foundation. The attendees at this meeting dismissed the concerns of Community Board 9 as something that should not impede the proposed move.
Currently, the money for the Hamilton Grange's move is not available and probably will not be included in the budget for this year. The Commissioner is hopeful that money can be secured for this project by Congressman Rangel in next year's budget. Bob Redmond does not think any move of the house will occur before mid-2008. He and others suggested writing letters to Congressman Rangel to voice concern over the delay of securing the money for the move, and to confirm that the Hamilton Grange project is still a priority for him in his role as the new Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
Schools "Fun in the Park" Day: Every year St. Nicholas Park hosts school children from various grades and levels from area schools to take part in activities in the park in order to build appreciation and interest of St. Nicholas Park. Basketball, tennis, plantings, etc. This year's schedule event is for May 16th with a rain date for May 23rd. Paul will be contacting the schools to secure these dates. 607 schools will be involved. Concern with the dates because of intense testing for school children in the month of May. June will not be an option, since schools do not like day off days after the Memorial Day holiday.
PEP (PARKS ENFORCEMENT PATROL) AND POLICE REPORTS
NYPD reported that they currently have one officer patrolling the park. They have engaged in several buy and bust operations on St. Nicholas Terrace and the 130's.
Crime is down in the park.
In 2005, there were 17 robberies reported in the park.
In 2006, there were 11 robberies reported in the park.
Last robbery reported in St. Nicholas Park was October 2006.
Correction about Riverside Park: Daily News ran a story based on a clerical error in tabulating crime in Riverside Park. They reported 36 robberies there in 2006. This was an error since all 4 Police Precincts reported the total amount of robberies for the park that year. So in fact, according to Police the park is among the safest with less than 10 robberies in 2006.
Car break-ins: St. Nicholas Terrace continues to be a problem, but getting slightly better. Worrisome area is Riverside Park near Grant's Tomb.
PEP Report: Overnight patrol in Manhattan parks. From 8pm to 4am. PEP asks the Friends any problem areas they can focus on at night. We suggested that they focus on the new dog run area to insure no Pit Bill Fighting was taking place.
PEP reported a slight decrease in off-leash summonses for dog owners and correlated that with the recent opening of the Dog Run.
FRIENDS REPORT/DOG RUN UPDATE
Dog Run: Friends of St. Nicholas Park (William Mullin and Julia Granacki) updated the Commissioner about the new Dog Park and next steps toward completion.
We are securing final numbers from the contractor in order to build a corral entrance for the dog park. After the corral is in place, volunteers will be called in order to complete the small dog park adjacent to the large dog park.
The Friends expressed a desire for a ribbon cutting opening and officially naming the dog park "St. Nick's Dog Park." Commissioner and members at meeting receive idea well and asked the Friends to let them know when they would like to plan it. Dog park completion would probably not take place until March or April.
Inside the dog park are a series of lampposts that are not working. 1 out of the three has no light fixture, but the other 2 seem to have the new light fixtures. Park manager Paul Evans will contact the DOT and arrange to have a line dug to the working poles in order for power to be brought to the dog run lights.
Friends expressed a need for clear communication of a change in law within the park concerning off-leash hours for dogs. The Friends want clarity around whether or not off-leash hours will no longer be a courtesy since the new dog run as been put in. The Commissioner was not at meeting to voice a decision, but Park Manager Paul Evans and Steve Simon both stated the Commissioner more than likely would eliminate off-leash hours in the park. The Friends said what was needed were clear official signs from Parks stating "No Dogs Off-
Leash Anytime. Use Dog Run."
Friends also need the Park's official Dog Run Rules and Regulations signs. Paul Evans has agreed to order 2 of these signs (although one would be needed. One for safekeeping).
Meeting Place: Friends are looking for a regular meeting place to hold their meetings. Becky Scott from partnership for Parks said that the West Harlem Community Preservation Organization has a room where our group can meet. Becky to connect Friends to meeting room organizers.
Spring Festival: Friend do not have a date for the Spring Event yet, but will be working on it soon.
CITY COLLEGE UPDATE (Robert Santos, Director of Planning and Development)
Call-Boxes: City College is installing several emergency call boxes along St. Nicholas Terrace. The College would like to know if some of these should be placed on the Park side of the terrace. If so, Parks would be responsible for the boxes (it seems) since it resides on Parks property. The Commissioner will get back to City College on that.
Update on buildings: 2 new building will be build for science and biology on the terrace between the Towers dormitory and the new School of Architecture. There are no architecture drawing for the community yet, but Friends expressed a need for more foot traffic and flow on St. Nicholas Terrace. Unfortunately it seems that all the entrances will be wet facing, thus leaving the park and the terrace with a view of back of buildings.
Robert Santos will try to get some drawings and architectural renderings for the Friends group.
PARTNERSHIPS REPORT/COMMUNITY OUTREACH (Rebecca Scott/Sabina Saragoussi)
New Meeting Space: Becky Scott updated the group on a new meeting place for groups in the neighborhood to use - especially Friends of St. Nicholas Park. The meeting place is on Amsterdam and 143rd street.
St. James Partnership Basketball Tournament: Tournament is scheduled for August and Becky expressed concern over resurfacing and its impact on the tournament.
Fundraising Projects: Becky and Sabina updated the group on initiative to engage more businesses in the community to donate or volunteer in the park, sponsor park events or work the Friends group. The presented a map outlining all potential funders in the area. Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce was mentioned as a group that should be involved in the park more. Lloyd Williams should be contacted by Partnership for Parks or Friends in order to see what events they can co-sponsor, etc.
NYCares Day: Sabina updated the group on the yearly NYCares day, where corporate volunteers come to the park to hep with projects. She ask that the Friends group send her a list of any projects this volunteer group can help out with. The day is scheduled for April 21st. Perhaps the Friends group could schedule a volunteer day, the same day in order to tackle an especially big job.
NEXT MEETING DATE
Next meeting was scheduled for February 22nd at 10am. The Friends may have some members who would like to join the meeting but can't because of work commitments. They will get back to Steve Simon and Barbara Allen as to the best time to hold meetings going forward.