The money is there, the plans have been made, but everyone is still waiting to see if the improvements to Marine Park will ever happen.
Few are waiting as anxiously as outgoing Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Canarsie), who will be leaving more than $5 million that he earmarked for the project in the hands of Parks Department, and it will be nearly a week after he leaves office Jan. 1 before he’ll know whether his vision for an improved Marine Park will ever be realized, or if the plan will be derailed again by the Public Design Commission, a little-known city agency that has frustrated such attempts in the past.
“We are hoping to have no trouble from the Public Design Commission,” said Fidler, who showed off the city’s design for the project to local civics last week.
Fidler has lavished the northern end of Marine Park along Fillmore Avenue with funding for the past three years, but the accrued balance of $5.15 million has not been spent on more than a few scoping meetings and design contracts.
But that’s all poised to change on Jan. 6, when the Public Design Commission — which must sign off on any new Parks construction — will either approve or disapprove the plans.
There is a reasonable concern that the commission will disapprove the plan as a result of its policy forbidding pre-fabricated structures from being erected in public parks. And that’s a policy that Fidler, whose designs include pre-fabricated roofing for Marine Park’s bocce courts, has blasted for slowing progress on renovating the park.
“The Parks Department can use the funding I have provided to purchase a perfectly acceptable pre-fabricated covering for the bocce courts,” Fidler explained to an audience of park fans at a Marine Park Civic Association meeting earlier this year. “But the policy of the Public Design Commission is to reject any pre-fabricated materials.”
The project features renovations not only for the bocce courts, but for the handball courts and each of the park’s fifteen tennis courts, which will be repaved, along with general landscaping and adult workout equipment — all of which will either be signed off on, or rejected by the design commission next month.
Previous efforts to roof the bocce courts with affordable pre-fabricated roofing have blocked by the commission in the past, but Fidler is confident that by publicly criticizing the commission’s policy, the agency will be more inclined to let the project move forward.
“I do think that making a public issue about it has quite possible affected the process and their thinking,” Fidler told the paper.
Furthermore, Fidler raised the issue of the commission preventing the construction of pre-fabricated structures at a Rules Committee Meeting earlier this year where two new commissioners were appointed. He is confident they got the message that the bizarre policy at their new job does little more than waste money and delay public projects.
“I made quite an issue of it,” said Fidler. “I hope and believe that they heard the point about not wasting taxpayer’s money, when perfectly good pre-fabricated and less-expensive materials are available,” Fidler said.
If the project is approved by the commission, the Parks Department will send the contract out to bid in Spring next year, with work expected to begin at the end of 2014, or in early 2015.
Locals who have waited about a decade for the long-promised renovations are cautiously optimistic that the process has gotten this far, but worry about that the commission could cause further delays.
“The rendering looks great,” said John Manzola, a member of both the Marine Park Civic Association and the park’s bocce club. “When it gets done is another matter.”