Roughly one year since its closure due to a cave-in, Parks Department officials have confirmed to members of Community Board 10 that the battered ramp leading to St. Patrick’s Field at Shore Road and 97th Street will finally be getting a much needed, ADA-compliant facelift, pending final approvals.
First sectioned off last summer, the collapsed ramp – and subsequent lack of access to that part of the park – has ruffled feathers of residents young and old, many of whom have been risking injury jumping the protective fencing around the collapse to reach that part of the park, which includes a prominent ballfield, more quickly.
Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Marty Maher attended a Monday, April 24 CB 10 full board meeting – held at the Knights of Columbus, 1305 86th Street — to set the record straight, and explain why the ramp’s repair is so much more than a simple repaving.
“The entire ramp is past its life span,” he explained, stressing that, when Parks first sent engineers to the park to investigate a reported sinkhole, they uncovered much more. “We realized then that we would have to rebuild it completely .”
Parks’ decision to make the ramp compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Maher added, is twofold. “We don’t just do it because it’s required by law; we do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
The new layout – which will include both a staircase and a winding, softly curved ramp – will benefit everybody and even include seating, according to Maher.
“For as long as we’ve been around, people have been saying they’ve wanted more views of Shore Road so we’re actually going to be able to provide that,” he said of the project’s added seating. The meat of the project, he said, is a new staircase that will be adorned on both sides by a winding, gently sloping path that doesn’t require rails.
The renovation will also include new lighting fixtures and fresh landscaping, as well as skate stops to prevent it from becoming a “skate area.”
But, perhaps best of all, Maher said, is the project’s accelerated timeline.
“Normally when we have a capital project, we have to go to the elected officials to seek funding, but [Parks Department Commissioner Mitchell] Silver asked the mayor directly for [this funding],” he explained, adding that the typical capital project takes about three years from when you get the funding to when you put the shovel in the ground, followed by another for construction.
“But this here was an existing contract that we already had, so we were able to put the money into it and expedite it,” Maher went on, hoping that the project could be taken to the Public Design Committee in May with the board’s support under its belt. “We think that, with the approvals, [construction could start] as early as July.”
Furthermore, Maher said, he believes the project – once underway – could finish well under the typical one-year-mark for most capital projects.
The board ultimately voted unanimously to green light the $2.7 million project, though it did not do so without some skepticism.
“I’m just wondering why it takes $2.7 million to build a ramp,” questioned board member Nick Nikolopoulos, to which Maher responded, “That’s just the reality of construction in New York.”
In the meantime, community members inquired about alternatives.
With the 97th Street entrance roped off, the closest entries are five blocks south at 93rd Street and three blocks north at 100th – something a St. Patrick’s Catholic Academy baseball coach present during Maher’s presentation contended is not ideal for parents of multiple children looking to get their little players to practice.
Additionally, both alternative entrances require the use of stairs, the nearest ramp entrance being even farther away near the entrance to the Belt Parkway.
“What’s happening, for the last 11 months and I think it’s just human nature, is that, regardless of how many barriers are put up – and there’s been a number of them – parents are still going to hoist their kids over and older people are still going to go over because, one, it’s the easiest way down,” he said, “but there are some legitimate reasons for it too, like some of the parents that drop their kids off may have other kids in the car and that’s the only place where they can drop them off and see them all the way down to the field.
“What keeps coming up over and over again [with parents] is, why can’t [the Parks Department] simply take one of those metal plates that we drive over in the road sometimes during construction and put it over the ramp?” the coach asked. “Because people are going to jump over, they’re going to risk their own safety anyway, so is there something we can do between now and when construction starts just to allow people to pass over, even if it’s just temporary?”
Maher responded simply, such a solution isn’t feasible.
“We’re not making it up when we say that it’s dangerous,” he said. “If we could put a ramp of something temporary, we would have done that. We’re closing it to protect those kids and their parents – that’s why there’s not a metal plate over there, because it’s not safe.”
Furthermore, Maher encouraged the coach – and anyone else in the audience with children affected by the closure – to spread a message of safety and patience.
“We love that the kids are outside. We want them to learn how to play,” Maher said, “but we also want them to understand the rules and that, when somebody closes something, it’s for protection.”