It certainly hasn’t been a walk in the park for Bay Ridge residents who are still awaiting completion of the 97th Street ramp to Shore Road Park.
While the Parks Department recently announced a June completion date due to construction-related problems found during inspection, residents are not holding their breath for the long-delayed reopening, considering access to the park has been hindered for over three years.
In fact, the ramp — which leads to St. Patrick’s field — has been closed since mid-spring 2016 and there have been a number of missed target dates for its reopening.
And no one is more frustrated than City Councilmember Justin Brannan who has continually pushed the Parks Department to complete this project — which began when his predecessor, Vincent Gentile, was in office — in a timely fashion.
“From day one, this has been a debacle and I think we have all been more than patient with the Parks Department,” Brannan told this paper. “While I agree the ramp absolutely needed to be properly repaired and made ADA compliant, several Manhattan skyscrapers have been built in the time it has taken them to rebuild this thing. We were promised this project would be finished in time for little league opening day in the spring and now they’re saying end of June. If it takes any longer than that, I will take legal action.”
When the ramp partially collapsed in late spring, 2016, structural engineers from the city’s Parks Department determined that the ramp had been completely undermined and needed to be closed immediately for public safety.
In July, 2017, plans were revealed for the new ramp’s design, including making it ADA-compliant, and it appeared that the work, at a cost of $2.7 million, allocated by the mayor, would begin shortly. But the start of the repairs continued to drag on.
This past July, this paper reported that, after years of delays, the work was finally underway to repair the ramp, which offers the only nearby access to the park for sports teams, the elderly, those pushing strollers and the disabled. Parks Department Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Marty Maher told this paper at the time that the park would reopen in fall, 2018.
Also in July, the Parks Department promised Brannan that a crew would be out there every day, except for weekends, working until the ramp was complete.
Regarding the latest setback, Maher stated, “We are looking forward to reopening the ramp this June with improved lighting and wheelchair accessibility. We understand the inconvenience of having this crucial access point to Shore Road Park taken offline, and we have regularly updated the community on the project’s progress and setbacks.”
For some residents of the neighborhood, getting to Shore Road Park without the ramp has not been an easy task. Coaches carrying large bags of sports equipment, including bases, bats, gloves and other gear, must walk for blocks in order to get down to the field.
With the 97th Street entrance closed off, the closest entries are located at 93rd and Shore Road, and 100th Street. However, both of those entrances require the use of stairs; the nearest ramp entrance is by the Belt Parkway, which is a greater distance away.
“Many residents are certainly disappointed about the delay in the completion of the 97th Street ramp,” Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, told this paper. “The good news is the new entrance ramp will soon be completely refurbished and fully accessible. It is important that the work is completed properly so all can safely enter the park.”
Last summer, St. Patrick’s Baseball Commissioner Mike Wood voiced his displeasure with the progress being made to this paper. “Without the ramp close by, it makes it very difficult for parents with strollers, grandparents or anyone with a disability to come down and see the games,” Wood told this paper. “Some kids will age out of the program before this is completed.”
Also voicing his frustration is St. Patrick’s Athletic Director Romeo Petric, who compared the time frame to repair the ramp with the building of a new school on 93rd Street. “It’s taken less time to build a brand new Pre-K building than it has to even start the rebuilding project of the Shore Road and 97th Street ramp,” Petric said. “If this had happened in Brooklyn Heights, it would have been done in a month.”
With another missed sports season at St. Patrick’s Field, Brannan is determined to take action should there be any further delays. “I’m tired of getting the shaft out here. This is about our kids, and access to the park for all to enjoy. The fact that rebuilding a concrete ramp has taken this long is a clear sign of bureaucratic dysfunction and indifference. In my book, this is unacceptable and I’m tired of making excuses for the Parks Department.”