By Maria Rocha-Buschel
After waiting for decades, community residents and activists finally got to witness the completion of a newly restored fence along the eastern end of Stuyvesant Square Park.
Neighborhood residents and local elected officials had been working to fully restore the historical structure since at least the late 1980s, when the 170-year-old fence was first partially restored. Reasons for the various delays included problems finding a contractor to do the job of restoring a landmarked but badly rotted fence as well as having money that had been allocated for the $5.5 million project get steered towards other priorities of the city.
So a ribbon cutting ceremony held by a section of fence facing Nathan Perlman Place was well-attended on June 15.
Councilmember Rosie Mendez, whose district encompasses Stuyvesant Square Park, said that she had been working on getting funding for the fence before she was even in office and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said that it was thanks to her work that the project ultimately received enough financial support. The bulk of the funding, $3.2 million, came from Mendez, with then-Borough President Scott Stringer contributing $1.6 million towards the project and City Councilmember Dan Garodnick providing $750,000. Mendez noted that even though the park is outside Garodnick’s district, he offered the funding because he knows that many of his constituents also use the park.
“Many of us have family in the community who use these parks and parks have made a huge difference in my life,” Mendez said. The term-limited Council member then quipped, “My legacy will be what I’ve done for all the parks in District 2.”
Others who’d advocated for the fence’s repair were there too, including Community Board 6 Parks, Landmarks and Cultural Affairs committee member Gary Papush, who CB6 chair Rick Eggers said pushed for funding on the project for “decades.”
Rosalee Isaly of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association had been an advocate for the project but was unable to attend the ribbon-cutting because she had been invited to another event in Paris. However, fellow SPNA volunteer Ana Maria Moore attended the ribbon cutting in her place, noting that the organization was grateful for the work on the project from the multiple city agencies involved.
Silver pointed out at the beginning of the ribbon-cutting that Stuyvesant Square Park, named for Dutch settler Peter Stuyvesant, officially became a park when the four acres were sold to the city for $5 and was previously Stuyvesant’s farm. Eliza Fish, the eight-time granddaughter of Peter Stuyvesant and also a descendent of Governor Hamilton Fish, was at the ribbon cutting in June and said that she was pleased that the project was finally completed. Fish’s family has a long history in New York politics but she pointed out that she and her father bucked tradition and instead opted to work in publishing.
“We work in publishing at The New Republic and our offices aren’t far from here at Union Square,” she said. “Now that the weather is warmer, we’ll be spending our lunch breaks in this beautiful park.”