Getting to Marine Park’s community center is no walk in the park for these seniors.
The Parks Department must open a service road — currently reserved for city vehicles — so the aged and disabled don’t have to hazard an uphill trek that’s nearly the length of a football field to get from the nearest Fillmore Avenue parking spaces to the field house, locals said. The service road — opposite Madison Place — leads uphill about 150 feet into the park and connects to a foot path leading another 100 feet up to the center. For some locals, the seemingly simple stroll is insurmountable, one disabled Marine Parker said.
“There are people who can barely make it to the building,” said Robert Probetsky, 62, who is bound to a wheelchair after an abscess in his spine left him partially paralyzed.
Millennium Development’s Marine Park Active Adults senior program serves more than 3,000 elders at the center, offering activities such as pingpong and line-dancing for ambulatory oldsters and games, art, and computer classes for less fleet-of-foot folks. But there isn’t a single handicap parking space for the thousands of elders who frequent the $16 million, two-and-a-half-year-old community center, according to Community Board 18 district manager Dorothy Turano.
“It’s primarily a senior center,” Turano said. “Someone who has a handicapped pass — why shouldn’t they be able to park there?”
Parking on the nearby Fillmore Avenue is limited from 7 am–4 pm during school days in order to accommodate bus traffic coming in and out of JHS 278, and the closest parking lot, located at 32nd Street and Avenue S, is more than two football fields from the community center.
Even Turano was forced to stick it to the man following a knee surgery that left her temporarily hobbled over the summer — she was on her way to a community meeting at the Carmine Carro center but wasn’t able to find parking within a distance she could reasonably walk, so she parked along the forbidden access road, but parks employees quickly accosted her, she said.
“At one point I parked it on that road for a meeting and I was chastised,” Turano said. “I laughed and said ‘I see your vehicles are up there, there’s no handicapped spot, and I can’t walk.’ ”
The field house has riled locals in the past, because the project’s cost ballooned from $5 to $16 million amid countless delays, and because contractors couldn’t even manage to get bathroom door handles on right.
Disabled locals can request permission from center officials to be dropped off along the access road, but the Parks Department isn’t looking to make such drop-offs “an official thing,” a spokeswoman said. Agency vehicles frequent the roadway, according to locals. But the path was designed for pedestrian traffic, and an increase in civilian vehicle traffic could be dangerous, the spokeswoman said.
“It would be super unsafe if we were allowing people to ride through an area that’s not really connected to the road,” spokeswoman Maeri Ferguson said.