Thursday, October 6, 2011

Parks Dept. ignores crumbling historic Van Cortlandt Park House

Here's a story from this week's Riverdale Review. More from this paper and the Bronx Press coming soon. 

By Brendan McHugh 

It’s going to be an uphill climb to clean up these stairs. 

Walking through the park last month, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz noticed the stairs outside the Van Cortlandt House Museum were littered with garbage and literally crumbling. 

The steps leading up to the Van
Cortlandt House Museum are in disrepair.
“George Washington slept there,” he said. “It’s a very important, historic building, but the area of the park coming from the south is in terrible disrepair. In fact, it’s a disgrace.” 

Dinowitz saw trash throughout the grass, which also needed to be mowed and tended to as well. Condoms, papers, sandwich bags—which he assumed might have been carrying drugs at one point—and more throughout the area. He also noted that the stairs themselves were falling apart.

Jump below for the full story.

“Maybe the parks department doesn’t consider it a priority because it’s not on Broadway and the public doesn’t see it,” he pondered, adding that he plans on sending a letter to the city within the week asking them to fix the problems. “Given its proximity to the mansion … its something which should be remedied as quickly as possible.” 

Unfortunately, the 17-year assemblyman knows the parks department’s typical response in cases like this and isn’t holding his breath for quick repairs. 

While he hopes his letter will encourage the city to clean the area a bit more often, he doesn’t expect a promising response on the construction aspect. 

“Capital money has to be spent…” Dinowitz said the city will tell him, meaning he or another elected official will have to use some of their allotted public money to pay for it. 

A call to the parks department was not returned, though by earlier this week the grass had been tended to and most of the garbage removed. 

“They managed to put a mask there,” he said, referring to a large temporary art project near the base of the stairs that looks like a drama/comedy mask. “Those type of things, that’s not as important. Spend less time worrying about that and more time worrying about actual infrastructure. Capital work has to be done. 

“Putting up an art exhibit, in this case a mask, doesn’t mask the problem,” he said. “It’s been neglected for years, probably decades.” 

A longtime watchdog of the Croton Water Filtration Plant, Dinowitz also wondered if any of the funds promised to Van Cortlandt Park should be used to rehabilitate the stairs. Since costs have ballooned on the filtration project, Dinowitz has long said the amount of money given to Van Cortlandt should rise as well. So far, they have not. 

He also hoped that maybe one of the many parks user groups could use some of their funds to help conserve the area. 

The Van Cortlandt House Museum, also known as Frederick Van Cortlandt House or Van Cortlandt House, is the oldest building in The Bronx, according to the museum’s website.

Frederick Van Cortlandt built the house in 1748 as a mansion for the Van Cortlandt family. It was built in Yonkers, of fieldstone and in the Georgian style. 

In 1889 the property was sold to the City of New York and made public parkland. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1967 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1976. The house has been operated as a public museum since 1897.

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