By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Long requested improvements to Bellevue South Park, including a dog run, will be getting made, thanks to an infusion of $3.5 million in funding announced by the mayor.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the allocation of cash during a town hall hosted by Councilmember Rosie Mendez last Thursday for her constituents in Gramercy, Kips, Bay, the East Village and the Lower East Side.
“This is a park that Councilmember Mendez has put resources into as well as the borough president and Councilmember Garodnick,” the mayor said. “We’ll be able to add a dog run, upgrade the plaza and add a large play area.”
Natalie Grybauskas, a representative for the mayor’s office, added that the renovations also include upgrades to the basketball court, but could not provide specifics on the exact scope of the project, including where in the park the dog run will be located.
Grybauskas said that the specifics of the project will be decided on partially through the Parks Department’s public engagement process with a community input meeting, but Parks did not respond to a request for comment on when this process would begin.
Mendez has been working with the Parks Department and community groups advocating for the dog run at least since the beginning of this year but the project has been previously stymied by fluctuating funding estimates.
The mayor announced additional funding for parks in the neighborhood at the town hall, noting that his office would be committing $5.6 million for renovations at Tompkins Square Park, which is in addition to the funds already committed by Mendez’s office.
The funding will go towards the addition of comfort stations at the park as well as improvements to the play areas and lawns. Some renovations at the park have already been discussed and a number of parents in the neighborhood expressed concerns about the height of the fence along the playground in the southeast corner of the park off Avenue B, which was previously seven feet tall and is being replaced with a four-foot fence.
“I’m concerned about the safety of having a lower fence,” said neighborhood parent and community organizer Anthony Feliciano.
Both the mayor and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver acknowledged that the fence height is a divisive issue.
“My kids spent time in playgrounds when they were growing up and I understand the perspective of having a lower fence feeling less secure,” Mayor de Blasio said. “But I can also see the benefit of having lower sight lines. Crime and complaints have been down in Tompkins Square Park, regardless of the fence height.”
Silver said that input from the community was split down the middle concerning the fence height but that putting in lower fences in other neighborhoods hasn’t increased crime at all.
The mayor also announced that the city is planning to “reacquire” PS 64 for community use, drawing cheers, although officials did not have information on how that will be achieved, since it is private property.