Morningside Park

Funds Allocated To Restore Marcus Garvey Park’s Historic Fire Watchtower - Ribbon is Cut on Morningside Park's 123rd Street Playground

Wednesday, August 28, 2013
No. 75

NYC Parks Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro today joined Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, City Council Member Inez Dickens, State Senator Bill Perkins, and members of the community including the Mount Morris Park Community Association and the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance to announce that capital funds were allocated to restore the historic Mount Morris Fire Watchtower at Marcus Garvey Park.

Later in the day, NYC Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White joined City Council Member Dickens, Manhattan Deputy Borough President Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, Community Board 9 Chair Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas, Friends of Morningside Park President Brad Taylor, and local children to cut the ribbon on the first phase of the restoration of Morningside Park’s 123rd Street Playground. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Recreation Supervisor Jackie Rowe-Adams led the attendees in a rousing rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”

“Thanks to investments from Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Stringer and Council Member Dickens, we are delivering great news for the green spaces of Harlem,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White. “The historic landmark Mount Morris Fire Watchtower at Marcus Garvey Park has stood for more than 150 years and thanks to this investment of capital funds, it will remain for generations to come. In addition, the children of our community deserve state-of-the-art places to play and the restoration of Morningside Park’s 123rd Street Playground creates a sustainable and visually appealing oasis.”

“Without the funding provided today and the restoration work to follow, we were in danger of losing a significant part of Harlem’s history,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. “I’m proud that a structure which had been abandoned and fenced off will once again become a beautiful and vibrant part of this public park. I’m also proud to have worked with the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance and the Mount Morris Community Improvement Association to have made this possible.”

“I am pleased to have been able to work with my colleagues in government, including the Mayor's Office, Borough President Stringer, and the Department of Parks, and neighborhood advocates like the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, the Mount Morris Community Improvement Association, and Friends of Morningside Park to find the capital dollars to protect and enhance Harlem’s valuable parklands,” said City Council Member Inez Dickens. “The $1.75 Million that I allocated for the Marcus Garvey Park Harlem Watchtower will protect one of Harlem’s historical treasures and the $1.7 Million that I allocated to Morningside Park will enhance quality of life and provide a better space for neighbors to enjoy time with their families. These ribbon cuttings are a celebration of our continuing commitment to upgrade our quality of life and deliver on behalf of our community’s families.”

The fire watchtower located between 120th and 124th Street at the interruption of Fifth Avenue in Marcus Garvey Park (formerly known as Mount Morris Park) was designed by the engineer Julius Kroehl and built in 1856-57. The last of many watchtowers that once provided fire detection for the City of New York, the structure is recognized for both its local and national significance. It is a designated New York City landmark and also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The tower was last restored in 1937-38 using WPA funds to reconstruct the park, restore the tower and create a large surrounding plaza, known as “The Acropolis” at the top of the hill. The tower was stabilized in 1991 with the addition of contemporary metal braces for support until funds could be raised for its full restoration. This metal bracing has reached the end of its useful lifespan and the original cast iron members have deteriorated.

This restoration will ensure the continued survival of an extraordinary remnant from our city's history. It will provide for the disassembly of the tower, testing of all components to determine structural integrity, and restoration and replacement of components as required. The project has received capital allocations of $1.75 million from Council Member Dickens, $1.25 million from Mayor Bloomberg, and $1 million from Borough President Stringer.

The popular 123rd Street Playground in Morningside Park was renovated to create a greener, more sustainable and visually appealing space. The completed first phase of this project features new play equipment, safety surfacing, a spray shower, basketball courts, a children’s overlook, benches, game tables, picnic tables and plantings. Construction began in August 2012 and the playground opened on July 12, 2013 - one month ahead of schedule. The project was funded with capital funds of $1.7 million from Council Member Dickens, $1 million from Borough President Stringer, and $1 million from Mayor Bloomberg.

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Arthur Pincus/Phil Abramson (212) 360-1311

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