This week, we highlight the much anticipated re-opening of Van Cortlandt Park’s basketball courts, an impromptu canoeing program on Jamaica Bay, the Northern Manhattan Recycling Project, and Bronx Chief of Staff Michelle Martell.
Van Cortlandt Park’s Classic Playground Re-Opening
On Tuesday, August 7, I joined Courts of Dreams Foundation Chairman Natasha Cornstein, former New York Knick Larry Johnson, Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, and Parks Committee Vice Chair of Community Board 8 Laura Spalter, to cut the ribbon on $162,000 in renovations at Van Cortlandt Park’s Classic Playground basketball courts. Also in attendance were children from the St. James Recreation Center, Mosholu Montefiore Community Center, Riverdale Neighborhood House and Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, as well as members of Bronx Community Board 8, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, and the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy. After the ribbon cutting, the New York Knicks clinic coaching staff, along with Knicks legend Larry Johnson, hosted a basketball clinic for children attending the event.
Thanks to funding from the Courts of Dreams Foundation and Mayor Bloomberg, Classic Playground now has brand new basketball courts for players of all ages and stages, from kids to college students and even weekend warriors. The Courts of Dreams program has now renovated seven courts at three locations in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan. Van Cortlandt Park, the City’s fourth largest green space, is home to everything from bocce courts and cricket fields to horseback riding trails. We are thrilled to add these newly renovated courts to one of the Bronx’s most popular parks.
Impromptu Canoeing Program on Jamaica Bay
On Thursday, August 9, Urban Park Rangers stationed at Frank Charles Park led an impromptu canoeing program for 28 neighborhood residents. Ranger Impromptu Programs are designed to provide unexpected, memorable park experiences for everyday park users. Frank Charles Park is a National Park located in the Howard Beach neighborhood of Queens. Through our partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), two seasonal Urban Park Rangers were funded by NPS to provide educational and recreational programming in Frank Charles Park from late June to mid-August. The two-hour free canoeing program was the second canoeing program at Frank Charles Park this summer. It provided area residents with an unexpected treat by using waterfront recreation to beat the heat on a humid Thursday afternoon.
Northern Manhattan Recycling Project
The Parks Sustainability Initiatives division has been working with Manhattan Parks staff and the Green Teens to conduct waste audits before and after the installation of recycling bins in different park environments in Inwood Hill Park and at Anne Loftus Playground in Washington Heights. The goals include promoting recycling and anti-litter initiatives in parks and better understanding the environmental benefit of public space recycling. During the first phase, the team sorted and weighed the contents of 17 trash cans to understand the potential for diverting recyclables. On the first day of the audit, three full bags of metal, glass, and plastic recyclables (45 lbs) were salvaged from the 17 trash cans. Now, after introducing recycling bins next to each trash can, the team is in the process of comparing the difference in the amount of recyclables ending up in the trash cans and analyzing the levels of contamination in each recycling bin.
The project also involves an education and outreach component. Several Job Training Participants (JTPs) were trained in proper recycling techniques through a fun game so they could offer front-line education to park users. For the past two Sundays, the team has partnered with the non-profit GrowNYC and the City’s sustainability mascot, Birdie, to educate park users – from vendors, to baseball players, to picnickers – in proper recycling techniques.
This week, we recognize Michelle Martell, the Chief of Staff for Bronx Borough Commissioner Hector Aponte. Michelle was integral to the re-opening of Van Cortlandt Park’s Classic Playground basketball courts. The reconstruction of the park’s two existing courts was a large effort, as it included the installation of new asphalt pavement, backboards, court lines, benches, and the cleaning of the site’s storm drains. For the project, Michelle coordinated all of the appropriate staff from many different divisions. She also facilitated the re-opening ceremony by working with the Press Office, Commissioner’s Office, donors, and recreation centers. Michelle even coordinated the refreshments and programs for the ribbon-cutting ceremony that many attended. A dedicated public servant, Michelle became a Parkie in 1981. Her Parks career started in the Budget Office, and after multiple promotions she began work in the Bronx Borough Office, where she currently provides her multi-talented leadership.
QUOTATION OF THE DAY
“I shut my eyes in order to see.”
(1848 - 1903)