Monday, May 17, 2010

Riverbank State Park Hours and Programs Slashed:Bayswater Point In Queens Closed

May 16, 2010. Locked Gates, Bayswater State Park, Queens, NY. Mott Avenue, btw.  Beacon Pl. and Jamaica Bay. (Photos By Geoffrey Croft)

By Geoffrey Croft

New York followed through this week on its threat to dramatically cut access and services to state parks. On Monday - the day Governor Patterson attended a ribbon cutting opening up a new section of Hudson River Park in Manhattan -  the state closed and reduced services in 41 parks and 14 historic sites. 

Riverbank State Park in Harlem had its hours cut by 40 percent. Its popular outdoor pool will not open, and programs were eliminated for seniors, including Learn To Swim and Aqua-aerobics for Arthritics, as well as exercise, art, and quilting classes. The park will now close before dark. 

The park was built for the community as mitigation for the building of a large water sewage plant on prime waterfront real estate. New York City ranks dead last in the provision of public swimming pools for a high density city. 

The cuts at Riverbank State Park in Harlem and the closing of Bayswater Point State Park in Queens would save approximately $ 750,000 and $ 5,500 dollars respectfully, according to a spokesperson for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Harlem resident Marcia Johnson, 56, said she arrived at Riverbank State Park on Monday at 6:30 a.m. to find the large green gates locked.

"It makes no sense," said Ms. Johnson,  a cancer survivor  who moved to New York from Jamaica in the early 1980s. She uses the park in the morning to exercise, walking around the track. "You have to get out of the house. A lot of people use this park – old people, people in wheelchairs, young people. The politicians don't care. People who live around Central Park shouldn't be the only ones with nice parks. We need them too."

In Bayswater Point State Park in Far Rockaway, the two gates were already padlocked last weekend. A small square sign affixed to a pole read, "Park Closed." The 12-acre park located on the south shore of Jamaica Bay in Queens is a popular spot for fishing and family outings.

"You gotta be kidding," said Rick Hill, 39,  when told how much the state would save by shutting down the park. "That's ridiculous – I mean, to close a park for $5,000. That's not even money."

A father of four, Mr. Hill said one of the main reasons he bought his house five years ago was because it was next to the park. He also fears the closed park will become neglected and overgrown. 

On May 14th, The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced it was accepting a $100,000 donation from Citibank to restore services cut last year at Long Island State Park as well as to fund summer programs in Westchester and Rockland Counties. The gift will also allow the swimming area at Zach’s Bay to extend its operating season through Labor Day.

Meanwhile in Harlem, more than 60,000 people will be without an outdoor pool and thousands more will be affected by program cuts – unless the budget is restored. 

"These parks keep children out of trouble," said Ms. Johnson. "The politicians don't spend money where they should."

Marcia Johnson of Harlem reads the new hours of Riverbank State Park. Park hours have gone from opening at 6:00am and closing at 11:00pm, to 11:00am to 7:00pm, a reduction of 40 percent.

On Monday Gov. Paterson was asked about the irony of having the ribbon cutting event on the day the state was shutting down dozens of parks and historic sites because of the state’s budget crisis.

“This kills me to stand here in a park knowing that I have probably closed down 41 parks and 14 other cultural sites and reduced funding for seven others."

Last  Friday state Senator Jose Serrano introduced a bill that would maintain the same hours of operation as last year at all state parks, and require the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation to carry out summer preparations.

Read More:

The Epoch Times - May 18, 2010 -  By Jack Phillips


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