Opinion: Turning over a new leaf at Bellevue Park South

Bellevue South Park (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Assemblymember Harvey Epstein

For almost four decades, Bellevue South Park has provided Kips Bay residents a much-needed oasis for recreation and relaxation in an area otherwise starved for green space. Unfortunately, in recent years, the park has become a hotspot for illegal activity that includes drinking and drug use. These behaviors make the park unwelcome and unsafe for the families in the neighborhood. We must address these problems as a community and make the park a safe and enjoyable place for all.

Bellevue Hospital, which operates over 300 psychiatric beds, and the 850-bed 30th Street Men’s Shelter are just steps away from the park, making it a natural hang out spot for homeless individuals as well as those with mental health issues. Often these groups overlap, creating even greater challenges with providing services. Further complicating the situation is the nearby The Children’s Center, whose clients are city’s most vulnerable children waiting to be placed with a foster family. Teens in the facility face incredible emotional stress and unfortunately have a history of being involved in violent incidents around the neighborhood.

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Police Watch: Teens busted for burglary, Motorcyclist accused of reckless endangerment

TEENS BUSTED FOR CONSTRUCTION SITE BURGLARY
Police busted two teenagers for allegedly breaking into a construction site at 322 East 18th Street on Tuesday, June 11 at 8:17 a.m. The victim told police that he arrived at the job site and noticed that the secure door on the ground floor was broken and when he got to the main floor, he heard a commotion in the basement. He saw that his alarm system was unplugged and the key pad was broken and he said that he then saw the two teenagers leaving the site through the broken door. He took photos of the teens, which he showed to officers who arrived at the scene, and after searching the area, police caught the two suspects. The victim also said that while he was taking a photo of the two teens who were arrested, a third teen ran past them and fled to East 18th Street towards First Avenue. The teens were also charged with criminal mischief.

MOTORCYCLIST ACCUSED OF RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT
Police arrested 29-year-old Ricardo Bonano for alleged reckless endangerment at the corner of First Avenue and East 14th Street on Tuesday, June 11 at 3:11 p.m. Police said that Bonano was seen driving a motorcycle without license plates and he allegedly ran a red light while popping a wheelie in traffic. Bonano was also charged with being an unlicensed operator and an unclassified traffic infraction.

TEEN NABBED FOR STEALING FROM TAXIS
Police arrested a teenager for allegedly stealing from cab drivers throughout the neighborhood earlier this month.

The teenager reportedly reached into a taxi that was in front of 401 Park Avenue South on Sunday, June 9 around 11:15 a.m. and stole the driver’s cell phone.

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New renovation plan for Bellevue South Park gets support from Community Board 6

Bellevue South Park (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Parks committee for Community Board 6 voted to support a new plan to renovate Bellevue South Park in a meeting last Tuesday.

Representatives for the Parks Department returned to the community board multiple times with revisions to the plans for the park, which the Borough Commissioner’s Chief of Staff Steve Simon said in a previous meeting was an unprecedented move since the agency usually only presents to community boards once for such projects before moving forward.

Residents and park advocates had requested that the Parks Department return for revisions to the plan due to what they perceived as safety issues that the original design did not adequately address.

While many attendees mostly approved of the plan presented by the agency, some dog owners at the meeting still had objections to the department’s unwillingness to use the temporary dog run space as part of the permanent dog run.

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Neighbors say safety first with Bellevue South Park renovations

Bellevue South Park (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community organizers and the Parks Department got closer to an agreement about renovations planned for Bellevue South Park in Kips Bay after a Community Board 6 Parks committee meeting last Tuesday. The meeting was scheduled because park advocates were unsatisfied with designs the city had presented to the committee last month.

Manhattan Borough Commissioner Chief of Staff Steven Simon, who expressed frustration at the last meeting when met with resistance about the plans, at first balked at the idea of coming back to the committee next month, saying that it was unusual for Parks to even come back to the community board a second time, but ultimately agreed that the architects could make additional adjustments to the design and return to the committee in March.

Kips Bay residents Aaron Humphrey, Karen Lee, Pauline Yablonski and Courtney Bird offered suggestions to the plans that the Parks Department presented to the committee in January, which includes an ADA-compliant dog run and updated play equipment that will also be moved away from the adult exercise equipment.

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Kips Bay residents say planned renovation of Bellevue South Park won’t make it more inviting

The renovation plan was discussed at a Community Board 6 meeting last Wednesday. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A plan to renovate Bellevue South Park that city officials presented to the Community Board 6 Parks committee last Wednesday left neighborhood residents feeling like they hadn’t been listened to.

“I don’t see much of what we talked about in the focus groups,” said Aaron Humphrey, a resident of Straus Houses and a longtime advocate for the park. “We have quality of life and safety issues. In the southeastern part of the park, we have a lot of homeless who sit on the benches there and smoke marijuana. The trees block all of it. We wanted the gate removed to make it more community friendly, and we wanted to maximize the space.”

Community organizers have been pushing the city to make changes to Bellevue South Park in Kips Bay to create an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible dog run and separate the adult exercise equipment from the children’s play equipment, primarily to discourage residents from the nearby shelters from congregating near where children play. But residents also said that the amount of tree cover in some areas of the park encourages shady behavior and had been hoping that the design would take more of this into account, possibly by opening up the park and removing some of the fences.

“I recall a conversation that one of the goals was to keep it more open so that the transient population wouldn’t stay there,” Kips Bay resident Karen Keavey said. “I know we have limited funds but I don’t see any changes to how the park is now. What we’ve been talking about is the entire ethos and vibe of the park so it’s more user-friendly and safe.”

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Uptick seen in groups of teen robbers

Feb22 community council hellman

Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman, commanding officer of the 13th Precinct (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Robberies by roving groups of teens have been a problem, especially in local parks, for the last month, according to the 13th Precinct’s top cop.

Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman made the announcement regarding recent crime stats at the 13th Precinct Community Council’s monthly meeting last Tuesday.

“Grand larceny is usually the driving force in our crime, accounting for more than 70 percent of crime in the precinct, but there have been developing issues in other areas,” Hellman said. “We’ve identified and established a pattern of street robberies with groups of young males, especially in the parks in the neighborhood.”

Town & Village reported at the beginning of this month that three teens were arrested for a robbery that took place in Bellevue South Park and the same week, three other teenagers were caught for an assault at the Asser Levy playground. Both incidents were at the end of September.

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Police Watch: Teens arrested for robbery, assault in separate incidents

TEENS ARRESTED FOR BELLEVUE PARK SOUTH ROBBERY
Police arrested three teenagers for robbery at the corner of Third Avenue and East 24th Street on Tuesday, September 25 at 6:16 p.m. Police said that the two girls and one boy were working together to steal multiple cell phones from victims while inside Bellevue South Park near 260 Mount Carmel Place earlier that day at 3 p.m. Police said that the teens also grabbed one of the victims by the throat and threw him to the ground before fleeing. The teens were caught after officers searched the area and the victim positively identified them at Third and East 24th.

TEENS ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT AT ASSER LEVY
Police arrested three teenagers for assault that took place at the Asser Levy playground at East 23rd Street and Avenue C on Tuesday, September 25 at 4 p.m. The victim told police that she was playing football in the park when the three suspects walked up to her and started punching her in the face. The victim said that the teens attacked her because she “snitched” on them in regards to an incident from the day before. The teens were arrested inside the 13th precinct on Tuesday, September 25 at 5:58 p.m.

MEN CHARGED WITH STEALING CAR IN EAST VILLAGE
Police arrested 24-year-old Ishmill Jordan, 36-year-old Chris Bazaar and 41-year-old Juan Gonzalez for allegedly stealing a car in the East Village last week. Police said that the victim was putting money in a meter for his car that was parked in front of 153 Avenue A near East 10th Street on Friday, September 28 at 2:50 p.m. when Jordan allegedly jumped into the unlocked vehicle with Bazaar and Gonzalez and drove away. The three were caught at the corner of Irving Place and East 15th Street at 6:03 p.m. and were charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle and unauthorized use of vehicle, and Jordan was additionally charged with grand larceny of auto.

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Letters to the editor, Sept. 27

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Poor planning could impact local ERs

I’ve been worried about the fact that the Sanitation Garage pushed circa 2015 is referred to by some in NYCity’s government as “on hold.” I assume that means someone will reintroduce it sometime.

For now there’s T&V’s story (Maria Rocha-Buschel’s really thorough piece on 9/6/18) about parking some garbage trucks near Bellevue.  It seems to me what needs addressing is why is the city allowing the garage at 606 West 30th Street to fall to eviction?

This is between 11th and the Westside Highway and, if it’s not inside Hudson Yard’s perimeters, it’s next to it. My suspicions are that big developer money has prevailed to push the need for garbage collection out of the shiny new Hudson Yards. How did the city let this happen even if it was under the Bloomberg administration? Is it too late to alter any of this? Are any politicians addressing this issue?

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Garbage trucks to soon be parked on Mount Carmel Pl.

Mount Carmel Place between East 26th and 27th Streets (Photo via Google Maps)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Department of Sanitation has warned Kips Bay residents that the agency will be parking up to seven garbage trucks adjacent to Bellevue South Park starting next Monday.

Representatives for the agency informed members of Community Board 6’s transportation committee about the trucks’ arrival at a meeting on Tuesday, saying that the change is necessary because DSNY will soon be evicted from the current sanitation garage at 606 West 30th Street.

Between four and six trucks will be parked on Mount Carmel Place between East 26th and 27th Streets on the east side of the park. DSNY community affairs officer Iggy Terranova said that the trucks will leave their spots on Mount Carmel Place by 6 a.m. to pick up trash and return around 2 p.m.

Residents and community board members at the meeting were worried about whether or not the trucks would be parked in the neighborhood with a full load, and Terranova said that the only time full trucks will park in those spaces is if workers don’t have time to dump them during the morning shift. If this happens, the trucks will then be taken out for the 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. shift and dumped then. Trucks will then be parked on Mount Carmel from midnight to 6 a.m.

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Bellevue South Park users ask for ADA-compliant dog run

Christopher Crowley, landscape architect for Parks, pictured with Kips Bay residents involved in planning for the temporary dog run (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

At a meeting aimed at getting community feedback, Kips Bay residents told city officials what they want in a redesign of Bellevue South Park is a permanent, fully accessible dog run. They also want to separate the play equipment from where adults congregate.

The Parks Department’s meeting was held last Thursday, when the landscape architect for the city agency, Christopher Crowley, told neighbors this is the first step in the process for the project.

“We don’t have a concept plan in mind,” Crowley said. “That’s what this meeting is for, to find out what the community wants in this park.”

Steve Simon, the chief of staff for the Manhattan Borough Commissioner at the Parks Department, said that the input from the meeting will help the agency create a preliminary plan that will be presented to Community Board 6 in the fall.

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City holding dog run town halls

The series of events are for dog owners with questions or concerns about their local dog runs. (Pictured) Dogs and an owner at the Bellevue South Park Dog Run (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

Got a question or concern about Fido’s dog run? The New York City Parks Department is holding a series of four dog run town halls with the next one scheduled in Manhattan on April 14 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

The series, according to a spokesperson for the department Meghan Lalor, was inspired by similar public dog forums the department held in 2007 while finalizing an off-leash policy as well as a forum in 2010 when Assistant Commissioner Michael Dockett was named the agency’s “dog czar.”

Now, the department is “refreshing” the concept with the hopes of getting dog owners more involved in their local runs and to inform them about available resources. The first in the series on dog runs took place in Queens last weekend without about 40 people in attendance. The Manhattan venue will be the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center at 3 Clarkson Street, and dog owners should note that the event is for humans only.

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Kips Bay dog run opens unofficially

Pooches play at an unfinished dog run at Bellevue South Park. (Photo by Aaron Humphrey)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Pooch owners in Kips Bay celebrated the opening of a temporary dog run in Bellevue South Park earlier this month after having pushed for the run for years. Neighborhood group KBK9 announced on its Facebook page on December 16 that the temporary run had been opened since the double gate was fully installed that week. The spot for the temporary run is an already fenced-in area adjacent to the basketball courts near the East 26th Street end of the park. Community advocates have been pushing for a fully ADA-compliant dog run in the space and while the temporary version is not accessible, the completed run will be once renovations are finished.

Dog owners using the park on Wednesday morning said they were grateful for the run’s opening, since they don’t want to have to take their dogs too far from home now that winter’s begun. Karen Keavey lives two blocks from Bellevue South and said that the next closest dog run is Madison Square Park, which is at least a 20-minute walk, whereas Bellevue South is a four-minute walk for her and her puggle, Louis.

“This has changed my life,” Keavey said. “It’s good for the park that this has opened up. It brings a different element in.”

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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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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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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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