City Councilwoman Diana Ayala addressing Community Board 1 at Lincoln Hospital Auditorium on March 26. By Mott Haven Herald.

                                                  But for many, that’s not soon enough

The future of St. Mary Parks long-shuttered recreation center dominated the discussion at Community Board 1s monthly meeting at Lincoln Hopsital on March 26– although trash and rats were a close second.

Our children are suffering,” one community member said about the closed recreation center, which hasnt been in operation since 2020.

Jessenia Aponte, the Bronx Borough Commissioner of the citys Department of Parks & Recreation, attended the meeting at Lincoln Hospital auditorium. She had her staff present an update on the current status and the future plans of the center.

The recreation center, one of just six such city-run facilities borough-wide, is about 70 years old, and has been damaged by floods over the years, according to the Parks Department. Its rotting in places and needs significant structural renovations to make it safe to use, the agency said.

The renovation will include adding accessible and gender-neutral bathroom facilities, a fire alarm system and new elevators and elevator lobbies. The entire building will meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act for accessibility, including the lower levels.

The current schedule calls for a completion date of April 2025, if there are no delays.

One board member insisted parks officials “come back with ideas about how to create more robust, gap-filling activities that would use city sites including schools, including libraries,” because “2025 is just too far off,” and to use northern Manhattan sites.

Residents and others whose families have taken advantage of programs at St. Marys Park center in the past asked Board 1 and Parks officials about alternative options for recreation while the renovations are done. They also said that drug use in the park has increased and is a cause for concern. Part of the issue is the increase in litter from drug paraphernalia, they said.

The issue of trash across the community district in general was another hot topic at the meeting. Community residents said they suspect the citys Department of Sanitation has reduced staffing in the Bronx, which has led to fewer trash picks up and an increase of everybodys least favorite New York creature: Rats.

We are too quiet. That is why we always get the raw end of the stick,” said a board member, one of several who shared tales of overstuffed street-corner garbage cans getting bypassed by Sanitation trucks.

The city also needs to provide additional trash cans on busy corners, where sometimes there is only one, the residents said. In places around schools, the quiet weekends are a favorite trash snack time for racoons and rats, the residents said.

Data about Sanitation Department staffing in the Bronx that had been requested at a prior meeting was still not available, the residents were told.

Councilwoman Diana Ayala, whose district includes East Harlem and Mott Haven, said that although resources, such as sanitation and immediate alternatives for prolonged shutdowns such as the St. Mary’s Rec Center “should be universal” between the city’s boroughs, but there is a difference between what is provided for her constituents in the Manhattan section of her district, compared with the South Bronx section.

“I do see that there is a big difference in terms of city agency responses,” said Ayala. “I see the disparities. Some things that are happening over there are expedited. Why are we paying for a service that should be a universal service and there’s a difference between what’s provided to the community in one borough as opposed to another.”

CB1 board members reiterated the need for everyone to call 311 and register specific incidents, including those about garbage and rats.

Community Boards now have access to 311 reporters and can track the citys response, the board members told the audience.

In other business:

  • Board 1 Chair Clarisa Alayeto said the board will hold an event on Saturdays at 3024 Third Avenue to distribute free fruit and produce. It will begin at 11:30 a.m. and is open to everyone.
  • Board 1 will soon have its own website to make it easier for community members to find information and track meeting dates.
  • Board 1 voted to submit a letter of support for a mobile treatment app run by Athena Pysch, a community mental health group. The mobile app will deliver mental health services and is paid for by Medicaid.

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