Sunday, January 13, 2008

Minutes from January Monthly Commissioner Meeting

DATE: 1/10/08

LOCATION: Administration Building at City College


William Castro, Manhattan Commissioner of Park
Steve Simon, Chief of Staff
Maria Burks, National Park Service
Darren Boch, National Park Service
Martin Smith, Council Robert Jackson's Office
Kim McNeal, City Parks and Recreation
Sargent Edwin Falcon, Parks Enforcement Patrol
Sal Trento, St. Nicholas Park Manager
Captain McCants, PEP Officer
Officer Harper, 26th Precinct Officer
Robert Santos, Director of Development, City College
Pat Morena, Director of Security, City College
William Mullin, Friends of St. Nicholas Park
Risa Rottenberg, Friends of St. Nicholas Park
Sarah Fort, Partnership for parks
Barbara Allen, Parks and Recreation


The National Parks Service presented an updated timeline and revised contractor plans for moving the house into St. Nicholas Park. Although a groundbreaking had been discussed for Jan 11, 2008 (Alexander Hamilton's Birthday), this date will not be possible since preparations of the area is not far enough along. The NPS will let us know when an alternate date can be scheduled.

The NPS says they are on schedule to move the house in March (as opposed to April when the group last met). The house will not be cut in half but instead left whole and cantilevered over the Church adjacent to the Grange. It will then be transported along Convent Avenue and east down West 141st street.

The NPS has distributed a notification to residents in the area. The notice contains information about the move and contact information in case residents have questions about the project.

Traffic Concerns

NPS did not know of any long term traffic plans concerning the new location of the grange. The group brought up concerns about buses letting off visitors on West 141st street because of the amount of congestion already experienced on the street.

NPS says they will work with the DOT (Department of Transportation) to determine the best plan for parking when the Grange opens. Some members of the meeting began brainstorming solutions to approach the DOT with, including one that would only allow buses to drop visitors off at designated City bus stops. The closest one to the Grange would be the bus stop near the southwest corner of St. Nicholas Avenue and west 141st street.

141st street Staircase
Friends of St. Nicholas Park reps Risa and William expressed concern about the condition of the 141st street staircase. The staircase has many steps that are loose and damaged. With expected number of visitors to the park to double or triple when the Hamilton Grange opens in 2009, they suggested a repair and enhanced landscaping of the staircase before that time. The Friends asked if Councilman Jackson could secure funds for this repair via the City Council, much like he did for the restoration of a similar staircase at West 131st street.

Community Outreach

Ideas for further community outreach about the Grange move were discussed. The Friends proposed a large sign at the construction site notifying the public of what exactly is being done at the site. The sign would include a rendering of the completed project as well as timelines and contact information in case residents have questions. NYC Parks and NPS will work together to produce this signage soon.


Commissioner Castro introduced a spreadsheet called the Strategic Plan Recommendations. It lists all the current issues and problems in the park and proposed actions that could be taken in the short and long term. He asked the group to use the spreadsheet as a "wish" list as well citing improvements that could be made in 2008.

Friends mentioned a few areas that needed structural improvement and are not part of the Capital projects for 2008. These include:

134th Street Staircase - this staircase was decimated by a storm last year and a mini landslide practically ruined the staircase. Most steps do not function or have been destroyed.

Cast Iron Fencing - although the older original cast iron fencing is rare and expense to replace, the Friends would like to recommend a few areas where cast iron fencing would enhance the look of the park as well as provide safety to those walking on paths in the upper areas of the park. Below are areas which would benefit from installation of permanent cast iron fencing:

Landscaped areas near 141st street - The newly landscaped areas near 141st street have temporary fencing and the Friends would like to see this fencing eventually replaced by permanent Cast Iron fencing.

Replacing chain link fencing in middle path near 138-139th street
- the chain link fence was installed a few years ago because fencing has been destroyed. Replacing the whole path with Cast Iron Fencing would provide more safety and enhance the beauty of the park.

Installation during repair of Upper Path from 131st-134th streets
- the reconstruction of the upper paths provides a great opportunity to place Cast Iron Fencing, especially near the hill border where small children are at risks of falling down.

Provide and install new Community Board at 135th Street and St. Nicholas Terrace.

Replacement of glass display case on south park house near 133rd street.

Water line to Dog Run during one of the Upper Path reconstruction projects in 2008.


Lighting Report

Park manager Sal Trento presented his lighting report. In it there he cited about 7 light poles that remain out. His team is trying to work to replace bulbs, etc.


The homeless problem experienced in the summer and fall of last year has been addressed. There have been a few individuals placed in shelters or have left the park altogether.

Bulletin Boards The main community board on 135th street had been damaged and jarred loose from its mooring. Sal and his staff has repaired them. The Friends' mentioned that some of the bulletin boards around he parks houses are damaged and not functioning. The park manager will review and being to replace all the bulletin boards. Also, a request has been made to place a community board in the entrance at 135th street and St. Nicholas Terrace. The Commissioner stated this should not be a problem to purchase and install one on that side of the park.

The Commissioner has stated that in the future they prefer it all posting on the bulletin boards get reviewed an approved by their group. The Friend's will send all posting via PDF for approval.

PEP REPORT (Sgt Falcon)

There have been 4 curfew violators during the increased patrol of individuals caught in the park after 10pm.

Some off-leash violations but a decrease than what they usually see. (hopefully this is a result of the St. Nick's Dog Run)

POLICE REPORT (Officer Harper)

Overall, crime is down 13.7% in the precinct from same time last year. During the twenty eight day period from December 10th to January 6th the precinct reported:

Rapes: none
Robberies: 18 (none in St. Nicholas Park)
Felony assault: 6 (one near 135th street involving some students)
Burglaries: 4
Grand Larceny: 21
Auto Larceny: 9


Steve reviewed the plans for the Capital Projects which will take place in the park in 2008. We should be receiving a PDF of the updated capital projects from parks soon (the numbers below refer to the corresponding numbers on the map).

1 - Rehabilitation of Basketball Courts at Ollie Edinboro Playground: Start of construction is in the Spring. We have received confirmation that resurfacing will be completed before the start of the Summer Basketball tournaments held there.

2a - Reconstruction of Upper Path from 134th to 138th Street: Anticipated start is April 15th. The Friends have requested a water line brought into the St. Nick's Dog Run during construction. Steve to send the friends the proper contact they need to work with in order plan for where the line will come into the run, etc.

Next meeting the resident engineer in charge of the Upper Path Reconstruction will be in attendance to answer questions, etc.

2b- Reconstruction of the Upper Path from 131st to 134th streets: Start of construction in Spring/Summer 2008.

3 - Reconstruction of the sidewalks on St. Nicholas Ave. (Department of Transportation): starting in Summer 2008.

6 - Reconstruction of Lower Path from 132nd to 135th streets along St. Nicholas Avenue: start of construction end of 2008 or beginning of 2009.

FRIENDS REPORT (Mullin and Rottenberg)

The Friends spoke about other outreach ideas for the Hamilton Grange as well as the success of having their blog entry on the move being picked up by which is one of New York City's most popular blogs.

Dog Run Water Line
The Friends again expressed a need for a water line in the dog run. The dog run has become very popular and a water line by next summer would help with providing a drinking source for the dogs.

Point of Rocks Monument
The Friends have reached out to Nate Harris and would like to plan a meeting with Barnett Schecter - who is an expect in the history of New York City. Sarah Fort from Partnership for Parks mentioned that a group from Columbia University Landscape architecture program is interested in involving themselves in a project with the park.

A meeting with the groups and historian to begin discussion on the history of what happened in the park. Possibly involving Savona Baily?

Hamilton Grange
The friends have a member who may be able to act as facilitator for Bank of New York involvement in sponsorships, etc, in the park due to the fact that Alexander Hamilton is the founder of the Bank of New York.


Sarah discussed the successful meetings she has been having with Harv from St. Mark's Church for more involvement of his kids in the park. Sarah and Kim McNeal met with Harv about ideas of programming they could do to involve some of his disadvantaged kids during the summer.

Its My Park Day
Its My Park Day is scheduled for Saturday, May 17th

Partnership Academy
Sarah handed out Partnership Academy information. This is a 10 week course for groups interested in learning more about working with political offices and securing more funding and sponsoring events. The Friends will see if there is an interest and fill out the form and return.

Capacity Fund
The capacity fund deadline is coming soon. Sarah reminded the group that all applications must be received soon in order to be considered for funding.

Columbia Landscape Students
Sarah mentioned a group of students from Columbia University who were interested in participating in a project in the park. After further discussion, the Friends thought they could join City College in developing a plan for the "Point of Rocks" monument.


Our next Commissioner meeting will be on Thursday, Feb 21 at 9am at the City College Administration building.


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