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Advocates See Environment and Recreation Opportunities in Little Used Grove

The grove at the intersection of Mosholu Parkway (top), Dickinson Avenue (bottom), Sedgwick Avenue (to the right), and Gun Hill road (to the left) has the eye of community advocates (photo: Gary Axelbank)

by Gary Axelbank

January 4, 2019

The Grove is green, but unused (photo: Gary Axelbank)

For as long as anyone can remember the football field-sized plot of green space commonly known by locals as ‘The Grove’ that sits at the intersection of Mosholu Parkway, Sedgwick Avenue, and Gun Hill Road has been largely unused land. But now, community and environmental advocates say this plot can serve the dual purpose of preserving the local environment, paritcularly for the historic Amalgamated Housing neighborhood that abuts it, as well as become recreation space for the entire region that includes Van Cortlandt Village, Mosholu, Norwood, and Bedford Park.

Earlier this week Bronx Council of Environmental Quality (BCEQ) Board Member Karen Argenti circulated an email notice to community stakeholders of a meeting to be held Thursday, January 17 , 7:00pm-8:30pm at nearby Vladek Hall to discuss ideas on upgrading the area, which could include green infrastructure (nature-based methods used to capture stormwater runoff from the roadways), and some amenities for the community’s use. The public is being asked to bring ideas of what they would and would not like to see there.

Aside from providing more recreation space there’s a significant environmental imperative for the region, Argenti told thisistheBronX in a Thursday afternoon interview. Because The Grove – now formally being called ‘Hilltop’ – is at the top of a steep hill that runs along Van Cortlandt Park South through the Amalgamated community, it’s a prime spot to catch some of the water runoff that Argenti claims is devastating local streets.

A tree basin on Gale Place that’s been destroyed by years of stormwater runoff
(photo: Gary Axelbank)
Years of water runoff has devastated natural areas adjacent to a step street
(photo: Gary Axelbank)

“You can see cracks on the sidewalk,” she said. “You can see that the edges around the trees are getting washed out because the runoff goes at such a very fast speed from the top of the hill, which is the grove, all the way down to the step street. It’s gushing and it damages the sidewalks, the concrete, and the edges of the trees.”

Argenti, who for years has firecely advocated for better management of the City’s storm water systems thinks this Hilltop Project can be done cheaply and effectively.

“There’s a tremendous amount of water that could be captured if the land was manipulated to the point where there could be berms that hold water and native plants that would catch the water and dredge it down into the soil and stop it from running down that hill.”

The local Assemblyman, too, thinks the time is now to turn this unused property, which is actually not mapped parkland, but property of the City’s DEP, into something meaningful.

“I want that area to be part of the community,” Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz said. “It’s kind of not a place that people go and doesn’t serve a positive role in the community. I think we could change that without going through tremendous expense.”

The notion of turning a neighborhood’s existing green space into a natural water-collection facility has not been done in New York City before, Argenti said. She thinks it’s time now to take a fresh look to find creative, ecologically-friendly ways to deal with the combined sewage overflow (CSO) that could support street infrastructure, and naturally impact the local climate.

Cracked sidewalks due to storm runoff along Van Cortlandt Park South (photo: Gary Axelbank)

“All this water is now going down the drain and into the sewage treatment plant and it costs them money to do that,” she said. “If you put the water into the soil, it would lower the temperature and the native plants would be able to take care of themselves without having to get somebody to give them water. It’s just a very environmental, ecological way to live.”

Both Argenti and Dinowitz agree that this is not going to be a short process but they urge participation in the January 17 planning meeting as a vital first step in a project that could be driven by the community.

“This is an effort to get the DEP and city agencies to work towards what people in the neighborhood would like to see and at the same time bring to light the complex issue of managing storm water on site as opposed to letting it go into a pipe and polluting our waterways,” Argenti said.

Advocates see the Hilltop Project as a creative way to preserve the environ ment and provide for new community recreation space (photo: Gary Axelbank)

“I don’t want to create a plan and then say to the community, ‘this is it’,” the Assemblyman said. “We need input from the beginning rather than at the tail end when people might feel it’s too late to really have a deep, serious input.”

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9 thoughts on “Advocates See Environment and Recreation Opportunities in Little Used Grove”

  1. Me and my buddies used to play a game we made up, called “bunt ball,” on The Grove, about 50 years ago. Not sure why that game was not played anywhere else, but it wasn’t. It was like baseball, except a very small diamond, no full swings, only bunts, and one player on each “team.” Essentially one-on-one baseball. Fond memories of The Grove. Hopefully, that space will be preserved and improved.

  2. I guess my memory is longer than Gary’s. I remember the Grove as heavily used in good weather by locals with folding chairs, family groups, and children of all ages playing various games. Memory suggests that it had fewer trees a few decades ago, but I’m not sure.

    The link in the article provides no additional information, in fact, it has less than this article. It’s not clear what the resulting Grove would look like.

    I have real issues believing that some type of water retention at the Grove would impact tree basins and sidewalks at Gale Place.

    1. there is no design yet that’s what the article is about. they’re requesting input on what the design should be. that’s the purpose of the meeting on the 17th. if you have something to say you should attend and have your say.

  3. An additional note to the story is that this is just a demo. The DEP tells us they can’t do green infrastructure in our area because of the bedrock. They say this even though there is flooding all over – especially on both sides of Mosholu Parkway. We disagree This demo will help open it up in other areas. Theirs is also funded under the CSO project to help clean our waterways. By the way, the DOT has plans for traffic calming which we have not seen, as it would have to go to CB7. This hilltop grove is the first step, and we will not do anything without community participation. We also don’t want the City to eye it for a building (apparently it was on the list for something this past year).

  4. I’m concerned about the fact that while the apparent attempt to alter/improve water collection in “the grove” is the intent of the redesign construction, that photos in this article are mostly from the other end of the Amalgamated Houses, namely from the front and side of my building, 130 Gale Place, @180 or so yards way….4 full blocks, giving examples of apparent water runoff in the area. If water runoff from “the grove” was THE major intent, wouldn’t “thisisthebron” have used hotos of flooding on Mosholu Parkway as a better example?

    1. It’s an interesting point, Glenn, but there is a real-world explanation. When we received the release and information about the proposal, flooding was not apparent in the area, whether up on the Parkway or down the hill. I moved through the entire area and it hadn’t rained recently and so we couldn’t visually illustrate the flooding in our photos, just what the BCEQ claims are the result of it over many years: on sidewalks, tree basins, and the hill adjacent to the step street. If that adds a note of doubt into your analysis of it, you’re entitled to that. I’m planning to attend the meeting on the 17th, hopefully you’ll be able to also. I expect we’ll all get further information about the situation. At minimum, I think it’s an important dialogue to have and this article seems to have helped spark it. I see that as a good thing. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  5. A grove a large standing mature and beneficial urban trees within an open landscape is an increasing rarity due to urban development expansion and paving. More large public street trees and trees elsewhere are being deliberately destroyed by developers and building projects than ever before in a massive tree by tree denuding that is resulting in a nationwide loss in vital tree canopy. Thats right! Public street trees are currently viewed by a number of NYC agencies as disposable. This is an unacceptable trend across the City of NY and especially in street tree depauparate places like Bronx County.

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/u-s-cities-lose-tree-cover-just-when-they-need-it-most/

    https://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/pubs/jrnl/2018/nrs_2018_nowak_005.pdf

    So with this grove of large invaluable trees on public space demands a deep dialogue about what is needed to implement Best Management Practices for urban tree management in order to retain and preserve these organisms for another hundred years. Perhaps recreational endeavors need to simply be put on hold realizing the invaluable living asset that exists here that absolutely requires undisturbed open space. And as this is parkland, inviting NYC Parks Capital architects to plan and design something here would be a grave mistake and a sure guarantee of tree death and tree losses in later years. You can kiss your trees good bye. History shows that Parks Capital is in the business in promoting fashionable park design and furnishing- not tree preservation and protection. So I advise talk to your local Consulting Arborist / Urban Tree Expert first to understand the trees needs before designing something.

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