Harris Clean-up Costing Other Parks

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Construction at Harris Field, this October (file photo by Layza Garcia)

Editor's note: this article is from this week's Norwood News, our special 2010 year in review issue, which hits the streets today.

By Alex Kratz

There’s a new twist to the saga that has become the remaking of Harris Field in Bedford Park.

Last year, the Norwood News uncovered the Parks Department’s finding of heavy lead contamination underneath the soil at Harris, which caused delays and cost the city $5.2 million to mitigate.

While the city searched for a company to do the clean-up work, residents continued to use the contaminated site, but it wasn’t until a decomposing dead body was found inside the park’s weak fencing in July that the Parks Department got serious about keeping people out.

Now apparently free of contamination, construction of the new ball fields has re-started and Parks is hoping to complete them in time for youth baseball leagues to start using this spring.

The twist is that it is now clear how the problems at Harris are affecting other parks that were in line to receive funding from the Department of Environmental Protection, which injected more than $200 million in capital funding for Bronx parks in exchange for taking public parkland (in Van Cortlandt Park) to build the Croton Water Filtration Plant.

Regatta Park, which sits on the Harlem River and is more of an idea than an actual park, was supposed to receive $1.6 million to help transform it into something public and usable. But now, the clean-up at Harris has sapped all but $93,000 earmarked for the project.

Councilman Fernando Cabrera is working with the DEP, Parks Department and the Department of Transportation (which currently controls the Regatta Park space) to see if they can still get the project going forward.