A ramshackle ramp leading into Shore Road Park is being converted into a multi-million-dollar walkway.
The expedited project aims to open in less than a year, but locals are raging against the Parks Department for not coming up with an interim solution to help kids safely schlep down to the ball fields from the 97th Street entrance, and warn that folks will continue to risk life and limb traversing the caved-in calamity.
The ire has left Parks Department officials scratching their heads after repeated attempts to warn locals that the only way to make the ramp safe is to rebuild it, said the borough commissioner
“We’re not making it up when we say it’s dangerous and closed it for public safety,” said Martin Maher at an April 24 Community Board 10 meeting. “If we could put a ramp or something temporary we would have done that. We’re not willing to risk anybody’s injury. It is failed — it is completely failed — not because I made it up, but because engineers studied it.”
The Parks Department fenced off the 97th Street ramp after it collapsed last July and was deemed structurally unsound by city engineers. But the verboten viaduct needs more than a mere patch job, so the city will raze the whole structure and replace it with an elaborate $2.7 million walkway equipped with benches and scenic shrubbery, according to Maher.
The emergency contract is being rushed through the system so that shovels are expected to hit the ground by July. This time next year, the revitalized walkway will open with fresh ferns, grass, and arbors of evergreens. In fact, the walkway may well open its gates in less than a year.
“We believe this will happen quicker than a year,” said Maher.
But the timeline will still leave the pathway blocked through this year’s Little League and soccer seasons, and next year’s baseball games. And impatient locals often would rather watch their kids risk the ramp than have them trek a few blocks to the 93rd or 100th street entrances.
Parents who drop their budding ball players off contend that the ramp is the only entrance where they can watch their tykes travel down to the diamond while looking after their kids in the car, said the coach who runs Saint Patrick’s baseball program, which uses the park’s fields.
“Some parents who 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 their kid all the way down to the field,” said Bay Rigite Michael Wood. “Regardless of how many barriers are put up, parents are still going to hoist their kids over because it’s the easiest way down.”
But no matter how Rigites justify it, according to the Parks Department, locals who walk down that ramp are playing a dangerous game.
“I don’t want a parent, or a kid, or a coach, or anybody taking a short cut and risking injury,” said Maher. “I understand that people want to climb over the fence, but I hope you’ll go back to the parents. It’s really important that people understand that it’s not safe.”