Mayor: Bellevue South Park getting $3.5M for upgrades

Mayor Bill de Blasio with Councilmember Rosie Mendez at last week’s town hall meeting for residents of Gramercy, Kips Bay, the East Village and Lower East Side (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

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.

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Neighborhood not on board with nixing Stuyvesant name

Following the Confederate monument controversy in Charlottesville and other Southern cities, debate has been swirling around New York City statues that could be considered symbols of hate, including The Peter Stuyvesant statue in Stuyvesant Square Park. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

While states in the South wrangle with whether or not to remove statues of Confederate soldiers, the controversy over monuments has moved closer to home for New Yorkers, with a group of Jewish activists advocating for the removal of Peter Stuyvesant’s name and monuments from city property because the former director-general was anti-Semitic. However, residents of Stuyvesant Town and park-goers in Stuyvesant Square this week weren’t having it.

“It’s all a waste of time,” said longtime Stuyvesant Town resident Don Burkett. “It’s all of this politically correct nonsense. All the problems in the country and they’re worried about a statue.”

The New York Post along with a handful of Jewish media outlets reported last week that the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center is demanding the mayor remove all mentions of Stuyvesant from city property in a bid to remove “symbols of hate” from the city.

“It would be like if they wanted to rename Gramercy,” said Peg Reilly, an artist who has been living on Avenue C for the last 20 years. “Who cares at this point? It’s history.”

Residents of Stuyvesant Town and park-goers in Stuyvesant Square alike said they weren’t even aware of Stuyvesant’s anti-Semitic proclivities.

Stuyvesant was said to have resisted Jewish refugees from Brazil from settling in New Amsterdam, and was also known to have been against additional religions other than his own, the Dutch Reform Church, such as Quakers and Lutherans. He also wouldn’t allow Jews to fight in the volunteer militia but then taxed them to have someone else fight in their stead.

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Parents sent letters after too-young kids visit new playground

The fitness playground opened on August 1. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Since the opening of the new fitness playground in Stuyvesant Town on August 1, management has been taking the space’s age restrictions seriously, by putting some parents on notice.

Over the weekend, we heard from David Dartley, a resident who was irked to receive a letter from management he described as “creepy,” that asked him to keep his too-young kid out of the playground.

The letter, signed from Public Safety Chief William McClellan, read, in part, “As we’re of the belief that your child was observed on the Fitness Playground this past weekend, we respectfully ask that you adhere to the policies for the good of all residents who wish to work out without interference from unsupervised children.”

Dartley admitted to us that his kids were on the playground, explaining that he saw other young children there too, and figured the worst thing that could happen is for them to get kicked out. The playground is restricted to users who are 15 and up as well as 12-14 with parental supervision.

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All playgrounds in ST/PCV to be renovated

To celebrate the fitness playground opening on Tuesday, Stuy Town management reps ran a 40-yard dash from one side of the playground to the other. (Pictured L-R) Jonathan Foux, director of marketing; Dominick Gagliardotto, landscaping; Joe Tedone, landscaping foreman; Benny Truncali, masonry supervisor; Rick Hayduk, StuyTown Property Services CEO; Walter Ramirez, landscaping; Omar Mercado, landscaping; George Ubry, landscaping; and Peter Walterspiel, senior vice president of leasing and marketing (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday morning, during the opening of a new fitness playground in Stuyvesant Town, StuyTown Property Services CEO Rick Hayduk announced that all of the property’s 15 playgrounds would be renovated within the next five years. Additionally, like the fitness playground, which is the first playground to be accessible only by residents’ key-cards, the other playgrounds will also be outfitted similarly. Hayduk said this wasn’t in response to any security issue but about making tenants feel safer.

The next playground to be renovated is Stuy Town’s Playground 1. The fitness playground (Playground 7) previously had no amenities and had been used mostly for roller hockey. To accommodate the hockey players, Playground 1, which currently has a rough terrain, will be smoothed over and renovated sometime in 2018. Key-card readers at the playgrounds are expected to be installed even before the renovation work begins.

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Neighbors celebrate restoration of Stuyvesant Square Park fence

A ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by Community Board 6 chair Rick Eggers, Ana Maria Moore of the Stuyvesant Square Park Neighborhood Association, CB6 Parks, Landmarks and Cultural Affairs committee member Gary Papush, City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and Eliza Fish, eight-time granddaughter of Peter Stuyvesant. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

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.

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Statues coming to life at parks

Historical figures will speak through technology

July13 Statue Peter Stuyvesant

Statue of Peter Stuyvesant in Stuyvesant Square Park (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

 

By Sabina Mollot

Most of the time, the monuments built to honor historical figures go unnoticed by New Yorkers. Up on their pedestals, how could they even hope to compete with whatever is below, flashing on park goers’ cell phones? Fortunately for our forefathers, a history-loving Dane has found a way to get the stories behind the statues told today in a modern way.

David Peter Fox, a TV producer and documentary maker from Copenhagen, has for the past 18 months been organizing installations in different cities where statues speak to park goers via their smartphones. The project began in Denmark, then later went on to London and then the Unites States in San Diego and Chicago. Then on Wednesday, July 12, Talking Statues came to New York.

“I got the idea in 2013,” said Fox, reached on the phone this week. “I was curious about the stories that are behind statues.”

To make the project a reality, Fox and others fundraised to be able to hire a team of actors, one to play the part of each statue, and writers to come up with the material. To hear any of the 35 city monuments’ stories, participants just approach a statue, and scan a code on a sign. They will need a wi-fi connection and a QR scanner or scanning app on their phones to do this or they can type the web address they see on the sign. After that, the individual will be contacted from the great beyond.

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New entrance at Madison Square Park will highlight monument

A landscape renovation will make the Eternal Light monument, pictured during a Memorial Day ceremony, a focal point of the park. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy has announced it will be creating a new park entrance at 24th Street for the Eternal Light Flagstaff.

The conservancy shared the plan at a flag-raising ceremony that was held just ahead of Memorial Day last Thursday.

The conservancy will be working with the United War Veterans Council and the Parks Department to renovate the landscape in the park and give the monument, which is located inside the park facing Broadway at 24th Street, street-facing prominence.

“We have to honor our veterans,” City Councilman Dan Garodnick said, who was at the event. “This is the single most important monument for veterans in New York City and it should be a focal point in the park.”

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Fed up by basketball noise, ST man aims to get rid of playground

Stuyvesant Town’s Playground 11 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

When Stuyvesant Town management announced last year that the sports tent, which had been installed at Playground 11 for a couple of winter seasons, would not be returning, the news was sad to local sports fans but a relief to others. One of the reasons for the oversized tent’s discontinued use was that its usage didn’t justify the energy it took to heat it, but another reason was neighbors’ complaints of noise.

One of the residents who’d been affected by the noise was psychotherapist Stuart Levinson, who said his eleventh floor apartment directly overlooked it. However, even with the tent gone, according to Levinson, the noise from the playground’s basketball courts, is not.

Recently, Levinson, who was also very vocal about his dislike of the tent, started a petition to ask StuyTown Property Services to get rid of the playground as well. Instead, he suggested, the space could be used for a community garden. The petition, which he sent to Town & Village, was signed by 30 people, all in his building, 285 Avenue C.

Levinson has been living in Stuyvesant Town for two years, which is when he married his wife, a resident of 20 years. So, he acknowledged, many of his neighbors have been living in the community long enough to either not notice the noise, anymore, or not care.

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Historic park fence finally repaired

A section of fence gets lifted into the park late last month. (Photo by Mark Thompson)

By Sabina Mollot

After years of delays due to budget and contractor related issues, work finally began to complete the restoration of the historic cast iron fence that surrounds Stuyvesant Square Park’s east section.

Starting late last month, large sections of the landmarked fence were hoisted in via crane as were the fence posts, which were placed temporarily on the lawn.

At some point in the coming months there will be a ribbon cutting, but in the meantime, the construction itself is something to celebrate for community activists who’ve been pushing for this project’s completion for 20 years.

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Injured bat found in PCV

Local veterinarian Dr. Timothy Mann said he suspects this bat is an Eastern Red bat, although it’s not normal to see one during the day. (Photo by Lisa Kuklinski)

By Sabina Mollot

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village have long been well known as sanctuaries to birds as well as squirrels, and in late 2015, the park-filled property was even visited by a coyote.

Still, a Peter Cooper Village mom was shocked on Saturday morning when she and her young son spotted a bat lying on the ground.

Additionally, the bat, which was motionless near 2 Peter Cooper Road, did not appear to be in good shape.

“I thought it was dead because it was lying face up on the ground,” the mom, Lisa Kuklinski, later told Town & Village. “Then I got closer and I could see it was trying to breathe.”

For a moment, she thought about taking it home, “but I don’t know anything about bats,” she said. So, instead Kuklinski called the Public Safety department. She went out again a couple of hours later but by then the bat was gone.

She isn’t sure what happened to the bat to cause it to have lost the use of its wings. “I don’t know if one of the hawks got it.”

Hawks have been spotted more frequently in ST/PCV, as T&V reported in February.

Fortunately, the bat did make it off the pavement alive, according to management.

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Spring is here: The proof is in the park

Mertensia virginca buds emerge from the ice at Stuyvesant Cove.

By Liza Mindemann
Stuyvesant Cove Park Manager

Despite the recent blanket of heavy snow, we are slowly moving away from the dormancy of winter into the season of spring ephemerals at Stuyvesant Cove Park. Due to another mild winter, we had consistent signs of life all winter long in the scattered lemon-yellow blooms of Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea), much dwarfed compared to their usual summer height but present nonetheless, which bloomed just above their basal leaves throughout the coldest days.

Later in the season we will notice the taller stalks of these very same flowers and in August, the swallowtail butterflies they attract. Just within the last two weeks, peaking through the remaining patches of snow, Virginia Bluebells (Martensia virginica), have also begun their spring show of small purple buds that when fully open are more of a cobalt blue and bell-shaped.

Spring ephemerals are the earliest to bloom, woken by the shift in sunlight and longer, warmer days, but short-lived, as by early June they have moved through the entire cycle of bloom, fertilization, seed production and are ready to retreat back under the earth as other, taller plants over-shadow and the large canopy trees leaf out and change the light-landscape of the garden.

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Murals will soon adorn Stuy Cove

Art to become a yearly project for SVA students

The mural will have a theme of birds and butterflies. (Pictured) A butterfly lands on a plant at Stuyvesant Cove Park. (Photo by Heather Holland)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

Students at the School of Visual Arts will soon be working on a project to spruce up Stuyvesant Cove Park with murals. The project is being organized through a community service program aimed at getting students more involved with the neighborhood since the university recently opened a new building at 340 East 24th Street.

Regina Degnan, a student advisor at SVA’s International Student Office, explained the project at a recent meeting for Community Board 6’s parks committee, whose members were supportive of the idea.

Dina Elkan, director of communications and events at Solar 1, was also at the meeting and said the area frequently has problems with graffiti and artwork would help combat that issue. Although the pieces will only be completed with acrylic paint and aren’t meant to be permanent, Elkan said that they would be looking into coating the completed pieces with a graffiti-resistant finish to discourage vandalism.

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Kips Bay residents ask for temporary dog run

At a Community Board 6 meeting, delays on getting the funding for the dog run for Bellevue South Park were explained. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Dog owners in Kips Bay are pushing the Parks Department to consider a temporary solution for the lack of a dog run in Bellevue South Park. Members of multiple neighborhood groups made their case at a recent Parks Committee meeting of Community Board 6, arguing that a temporary run near the basketball courts would give residents an immediate place to play with Fido instead of having to wait at least five years while the Parks Department completes additional renovations on the park.

Kips Bay Neighborhood Association member Karen Lee said at the meeting that there is an area north of the basketball courts that is already fenced in and the group has submitted an application for a grant for $280,000 from Borough President Gale Brewer’s office to make changes to the space, such as an access ramp, a nonskid surface and automatic openers for the entrance gates. Lee said that the funding is mainly necessary to make the space accessible for residents with disabilities, which she said is one of the main motivations for pushing for the dog run in the first place.

“Dog runs in the city aren’t ADA compliant,” she explained prior to the meeting. “This would be the first dog run in the city that is ADA compliant. Hospital row is right there and there’s a huge community of disabled people in this neighborhood who already use this park.”

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Neighbors concerned over proposal for floodwalls by two playgrounds

Murphy's Brother's Playground (Photo courtesy of Parks NYC)

Murphy’s Brother’s Playground (Photo courtesy of Parks NYC)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community residents voiced their concerns about a plan to redesign two local playgrounds around a floodwall that’s part of the coastal resiliency project planned for the East Side.

They got a chance to provide input on changes for Asser Levy and Murphy’s Brothers playgrounds in a meeting last Thursday. This was the second public meeting on the subject.

Meanwhile, some residents were frustrated that the proposals from the mayor’s officer were the same as those presented at the previous meeting, held last November. Carrie Grassi, deputy director for planning at the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, explained that this meeting was primarily scheduled to give residents a second chance to provide input at a more convenient location, since some had complained the previous meeting was held too far from the actual project area. The most recent meeting was held directly adjacent to the affected area at the VA Medical Center, while the previous meeting was held at Washington Irving High School.

“We wanted to give more people the opportunity to see the presentation with fresh eyes so they were unbiased in their feedback,” she said.

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Kips Bay dog run delayed due to city budget errors

Bellevue Park South (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Bellevue Park South (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A dog run for Bellevue Park South has been stymied by bureaucratic funding woes and miscommunications between the City Council and the Parks Department, Town & Village learned last week.

The Kips Bay Neighborhood Association had been working with City Councilmember Rosie Mendez on the project and last year, Mendez allocated $1.2 million for the new dog run. However, Mendez said she was later told by the Parks Department that the project would ultimately cost closer to $6 million.

She said officials at the city agency told her last May that the project wouldn’t be able to move forward unless it was fully funded and in the meantime, she learned that McKinley Playground on Avenue A and East 3rd Street needed about the same amount that had been allocated to the Bellevue South project, so before the city’s budget was approved in June, she decided to move the money to the McKinley project instead.

“I figured that I could either put the $1.2 million into the Bellevue South Park and have no projects move forward, or I could have another project get completed,” Mendez said. “I decided to move forward with the other project and that’s the decision I would make again today.”

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