Thursday, November 3, 2011

$1 million slated to fix Seton Park

Another story from this week's Riverdale Review. Check out old coverage of this issue here.

By Brendan McHugh 

City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell is set to allocate nearly $1 million to the restoration of Seton Park, and based off a recent community meeting, it will go towards repairing the natural grass, the ball fields and the tennis courts.

“[T]he consensus was to do various repairs to the ball field, tennis courts, etc., rather than use the money for artificial turf,” Community Board 8 parks committee chairman Bob Bender said. “We are sending our minutes to Councilman Koppell so he can learn what happened.”

Ultimately, the park users decided for renovation of the worst parts of the ball fields’ surfaces, including restoration of a field that has essentially disappeared to the naked eye, resurfacing the tennis courts, and brining in new infrastructure such as benches, backstops and dugouts. 

Koppell spoke briefly at the Oct. 27 meeting, held in the Schervier Apartments, to a group of Seton Park users that included tennis players, a Riverdale-Kingsbridge Academy representative, little league parents and other concerned residents before he had to run off to another meeting. 

Jump below for the full story.
He explained that he has $900,000 that he would like to use on the park, but he needed to hear what the community wants first. Earlier this year, he went on a tour of the park with local residents, but they were split on whether or not the fields at the park should be converted to an artificial surface or remain natural. 

Converting the entire park to artificial turf had too much downside, the park users said.
It would cost millions extra, and to only use the current funds available would barely cover half the field. 

The city’s parks department has recently been encouraging artificial turf because it has meant less money to maintain it in the long term, though the turf in Van Cortlandt Park’s Stadium has had to be fixed multiple times.

Another concern voiced was about the long-term condition of the natural grass. With Van Cortlandt Park’s parade ground re-sodding years behind schedule, the fear is that Seton Park’s field would fall into the same situation. Furthermore, with so many different groups using the field, a newly resurfaced field would only be in pristine condition for a few years. After typical wear and tear, the field would regress back into it’s current state.

“Don’t take this $900,000 and throw it away,” pleaded Michael Holoszyc, a Riverdale Soccer Club board member. 

Another board member, Ken Katzman, said the best plan would be to keep any construction on the fields as short as possible. 

“We should minimize interruptions … so the kids don’t lose a few years,” said Katzman, who is also involved in the Riverdale Little League. 

A hospital formerly stood where Seton Park is. Community board members and local residents fear that if they decide to dig too far below the field, they could find problems with the area that would require field reconstruction for years to come. 

A handful of tennis players came to voice concerns about their corner of the park, saying the courts haven’t been resurfaced since June Eisland was a City Council member. Daniel Poinson, who has been playing on the courts since 1973, said the courts are akin to “playing on ice” right now. Also, the nets aren’t typically held up at the regulation height of 36 inches. 

Rita Pochter-Lowe, active with a local Boy Scout troop, suggested the park users get together and begin volunteering hand-in-hand with the parks department to try and keep the park in better shape. Residents at the meeting hinted at the idea of forming a “Friends Of” group, a nonprofit that could raise money for the park, though no action was taken at the meeting.

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