Christopher Persley with his wife, Jenelle, and his daughter, Camilla. Persley is a stay-at-home father who wants to spend as much time with his daughter as he can.
Christopher Persley woke up around 7 a.m. He got breakfast and lunch for his five-year-old daughter, Camilla, before she left for school. For the rest of the afternoon, Persley did dishes, finished laundry, cleaned the house, and squeezed in some reading and writing. Once his daughter got back from school they played, ate a home cooked meal, and started getting ready for bed.
It was a typical day for Persley, a stay-at-home father.
“I have a truly wonderful relationship with my daughter,” said Persley, 42, of the Upper West Side. “There is nothing more fulfilling than that. I get to be the one who picks her up from school, who helps her maturation, who supports her identity development.”
Since 1989, the number of fathers who stay at home with their children has nearly doubled, reaching its highest point at 2.2 million in 2010. The number of stay-at-home fathers who say the main reason for staying home is caring for their family has also grown significantly since 1989, increasing from 5 to 21 percent.
Dr. Caryn Medved, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Baruch College, did an in-depth study on stay-at-home fathers. Her inspiration for this study actually came up when her own brother became an at-home father.
Medved believed that one of the most important takeaways from her project was the establishment of parenting roles with at-home dads and breadwinning mothers was not just a result of economic issues.
“You read a lot in newspapers and things like that, that often times this arrangement is brought about because of economics,” she said. “But I was surprised at the number of couples who were there for all sorts of other reasons.”
Many couples also felt more comfortable with a parent staying at home with their children instead of using daycare facilities or hiring a nanny.
For the Persley family, Christopher and his wife, Jenelle, knew that they wanted someone within the family watching their daughter.
“I think our biggest fear was how much of an influence would someone else be on our child,” said Persley. “Would they stifle who she is and lead her to become someone who she’s not?”
Because his wife had stricter hours at the lab she worked at, it made more sense for Persley, who worked at an independent school, to transition into being the at-home parent. He had worked with kids for a long time at his school and was excited about filling that role
“Jenelle loved the idea of it being me,” he said. “She always felt that I was the parent better suited for that sort of extended time with our child.”
Once the couple officially made this decision, Persley told his supervisor that he was going to be leaving work to be a full-time dad. He was surprised to see that some of his co-workers weren’t as supportive of his decision as he thought they would be.
“There were some other people in the community that really didn’t get it, who thought that I was being fired saying, ‘There’s no way this guy is walking away from this job to be home with his kid,’” he said.
Persley also had trouble finding other stay-at-home fathers he could connect with.
Eventually, he found NYC Dads Group, a community of fathers who get together for playdates, classes and other social events
Medved discovered through interviewing her participants that these societal perceptions of the traditional male role does affect how stay-at-home fathers define themselves. Some of them own their title, but others get more insecure in certain social situations, like at a wife’s work party or an outing at the park.
“They might be at a party and someone asks, ‘So what do you do?’ And there certainly were plenty of men that I talked to that said, ‘Oh it depends on the day. Sometimes I’m a photographer,’ which is maybe a part time job or a hobby they do,” she said. “And sometimes they own it. But those kinds of situations are the most challenging for them.”
For breadwinning mothers, similar social situations can be challenging for them as well.
Cherry Vasquez, is a working mother of two. She currently lives with her husband, Jim, in Dallas, Texas.
When Vasquez first became pregnant at 21, she was making more money as a federal government worker than her husband, and that’s when they decided that he should be the at-home parent. Both Vasquez and her husband immigrated to the United States from the Philippines at a young age, and because of cultural differences, not all of the couple’s friends and family understand their household dynamic. Vasquez said that in traditional Philippine culture, the father is supposed to work and the mother is supposed to stay at home with the family.
That is why Vasquez’s mother envisioned a different life for her daughter.
“My dad always stayed home too,” said Vasquez. “My dad took care of me, so that’s not something new to me. But my mom would have preferred for that not to be my family situation as well, because she was the one working. I’m sure she was hoping that I would change things.”
But she knew that having her husband stay at home was the best decision for their children.
“They actually really appreciate having one of us stay home,” said Vasquez. “So like when dad asks, ‘Oh can I go back to work now? You guys are older.’ They say no.”
And Vasquez doesn’t mind coming home to a cooked meal and a clean house either, since it gives her more time to spend with her family.
“He takes care of cooking and takes the kids wherever they need to be and that way, when I’m off of work, I don’t have to worry about all of that,” she said. “I can just spend time with the kids once I get home.”
Although stay-at-home fathering is still viewed as ‘non-traditional,’ the increase of this family dynamic over the past decade indicates that it is becoming more socially accepted in society. Even big companies like Lego, have introduced a stay-at-home dad figure as part of the brand’s new Lego City line. And many stay-at-home fathers, like Persley just want people to realize that dads are parents too.
“Most of us want to be just as involved as moms in the raising of our children,” he said. “And a man can be an at-home parent just as easily as a woman.”
A Public School 55 student enjoys her second cup of salad at lunchtime. The salad was grown at the South Bronx school by students. Photo by Elizabeth Arakelian
The fluorescently lit cafeteria of Public School 55 in the South Bronx sparked to life as kindergarteners and first-graders file inside. Lunch ladies shush the students as they buzz with excitement: lunchtime today is special.
Although the kids’ lunch trays have the usual items of chicken and milk, even cookies for dessert, the star of the show is the side: a spinach and kale salad with cherry tomatoes and shallots, tossed in an oregano vinaigrette dressing.
Most students receive their cups of salad with a smile. Others push it away with a crinkled nose.
“There are tomatoes,” said one brown-haired boy in disgust.
Another first grader is on her third serving, the vinaigrette still slick on her full face.
“It’s good,” she said. “It’s really yummy.”
The gourmet option wasn’t shipped in or catered by a guest chef. It was grown by the students themselves. While gardening in schools is nothing new, at PS 55 students are farming 37 varieties of fruits and vegetables in the most unlikely of places.
The K-5 school sits in the middle of the South Bronx housing projects in the unhealthiest county in New York state. The concept of fresh and natural greens meeting the mouths of developing children was a relatively foreign one, but the Green Bronx Machine now has students planting, cooking and eating produce all within the same city block.
Green Bronx Machine is a nonprofit that has partnered with the South Bronx school to repurpose an unused fourth-floor library, in a 100-year-old building, into a green sanctuary called the National Health and Wellness Center, which opened in January 2016.
The nonprofit is the brainchild of Stephen Ritz, the founder of Green Bronx Machine and self proclaimed CEO or “Chief Eternal Optimist of Bronx County.” The South Bronx is the poorest congressional district in the country, but where most see poverty, Ritz sees opportunity.
There are also outdoor gardens at PS 55, which sit behind a chainlink fence in the shadows of the towering brick projects. PS 55 is a zone school, so the students who attend it live in the South Bronx. The area has an abundance of unhealthy options and few fresh ones, said Ritz, who calls the cheap, corner store snacks a “MESS”.
“MESS is what I call Manufactured Edible Single-serve Substances,” said Ritz. “This is a very food challenged community. I mean you’re going to see a lot of very heavy kids walk around this community.”
One in four children in Bronx public schools is obese, according to the New York City Department of Health. But the bright red doors at PS 55, and the garden beds that flank them, have become a welcoming sign for students. Behind them there will be hands-on learning and soil-stained clothes. Students that enter the school won’t just go to class, but they will also learn that they have the power to decide what goes on their plate.
“We find that when kids do cooking or grow vegetables and learn about the food on their own terms, that they’re much more likely to eat it,” said Bill Yosses, former White House Executive Pastry Chef and Green Bronx Machine partner. “ They’re learning this about themselves. They own it.”
What started as an afterschool program in the Bronx in 2006 has since blossomed into an international movement with Green Bronx Machine chapters opening across America in Florida, Washington, DC, California, Vermont and Missouri, said Ritz. The organization is also partnering with 20 schools in Canada and Ritz has scouted opportunities in Mexico and Dubai, as well.
Green Bronx Machine has gained international attention and Ritz has taken students to be honored at the White House and featured in TED Talks. His work has led him to meet Pope Francis, present in the United Arab Emirates and he was a 2015 finalist for the Global Teacher Prize.
While Ritz has been successful in drawing attention to the needs of the South Bronx, for the past year and a half he has remained rooted at PS 55. It is here Ritz fosters growth in the students and their gardens. The indoor vertical farming towers in the National Health and Wellness Center burst with kale, chard and other lettuce varieties year-round. Soon, students will plant fruits and vegetables in the outdoor garden boxes. During harvest, they take home pounds of vegetables each week.
But farming at PS 55 is more than a fun activity — it’s actually school work. The Green Bronx Machine curriculum is aligned to Common Core educational standards, so the students are learning age appropriate skills in a hands-on way.
“It’s fractions, it’s decimals, it’s ratios, it’s proportions. It’s the art and science of growing vegetables aligned to content area instruction that allows everybody to benefit instead of just being a fun place where they come and cook and get their hands dirty,” Ritz said.
Plus, the students take on leadership roles.
“I mean I have plant police, leaf monitors, PH patrol, everything that you see here is kid maintained,” said Ritz, gesturing to the vertical farms.
The fourth-floor also boasts a mobile cooking station, equipment to record cooking demonstrations, and bicycles where kids can pedal to generate energy to charge their phones, or see how long they have to ride to burn off a soda.
Ritz even implements a reading to plants program where students sit by the vertical towers and read to the leafy greens. At lunch, Ritz swaps the plants out for bigger, more developed plants and tells the students “‘You did such a good job! Look at what you’ve done!’ So the kids really feel great and they want to perform,” Ritz said.
While the real benefit is students’ appetite for healthy and fresh produce, standardized test scores are also on the uptick and attendance has increased to 97 percent, according to Ritz.
Since its inception the Green Bronx Machine has also linked up 2,200 graduated students with jobs at places like Whole Foods and Fresh Direct.
When students aren’t learning in the National Health and Wellness Center, it is used for adult workforce development. Students and their families visit and tend to the garden throughout the year, as well.
“You literally see parents and community members shopping there for groceries,” said Ritz of the outside gardens which remain open 24/7 in the summer.
While the ultimate goal of the Green Bronx Machine is to move students up the food chain, the nonprofit is also shaping students’ self-esteem.
Fifth-grader Zuhaiti Arias said she likes being acknowledged for her hard work with the school’s gardening. “People are going to get to know me better and see who I really am,” she said.
At PS 55 choosing swiss chard over chips may be a small success, but it could lead to something greater, which students like Arias are reminded of each time they enter the National Health and Wellness Center and see the phrase “Si Se Puede” painted on the wall.
“That means ‘Yes we can’,”explained Arias. “ It means that we can do anything in the world if we believe in ourselves and do hard work.”
Supporters display at light up sign for Sanders at the Brooklyn Navy Yard before the Democratic presidential debate yesterday or Sanders. by Leann Garofolo
Bernie Sanders supporters brought a carnival to Brooklyn Navy Yard before yesterday’s Democratic presidential debate. There were homemade light-up signs, a customized “Bernie for President” computer game, a life-sized Bernie Sanders muppet and more.
They came from all over the country to take on the more subdued Hilary Clinton supporters who gathered on the opposite corner carrying the official “I’m With Her” signs. But it was the eclectic array of homemade Sanders campaign gear that stole the show on this chilly spring night.
“I have never come out like this for anybody,” said Kyle Cranston, of South Hampton in Long island, New York. He was decked out in a black “Feel the Bern” t-shirt, topped with a blazer sporting colorful Bernie buttons. His black fitted baseball cap said “Bernie for President,” and he carried a blue sign emblazoned with the same logo.
It was not Cranston’s first time braving the cold for Sanders. In February, he attended the New Hampshire primary, traveled to Boston for Super Tuesday, and has been making phone calls and canvassing for his candidate.
The stakes were high for the democratic candidates who both have roots in New York. Sanders were born in Flatbush, Brooklyn to Jewish immigrants, and Hillary Clinton was the city’s senator for eight years. She calls New York her adopted home.
Liz Sawyers, of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn, was the coordinator of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) members who attended the rally. Under her black winter coat was a white t-shirt that said “Bernie is bae”, with a sketch of the candidate’s face inside a red heart.
“Earlier this afternoon, just as the sun was going down, the CWA members marched down the street,” said Sawyers. “We had like, 600 CWA members here. It was great.”
As an independent business owner teaching public speech and rhetoric, Sawyers is passionate about fair labor. Earlier in the week, the CWA began striking back against Verizon after the parties failed to negotiate a fair contract.
Sanders showed his support and solidarity for the workers on Wednesday when he joined a crowd of 2,000 CWA Verizon and Verizon Wireless workers on the picket line in Brooklyn.
“Bernie was on the picket lines with them, as he was has been on the picket lines with labor unions and teacher unions for years,” said Sawyers. “He’s been consistent on these same issues for 31 years.”
But this rally was also interactive.
A Playstation was set up where kids and adults got to play Bernie “jumping” over obstacles to reach the end goal of being elected as president. A virtual Bernie was navigated as he jumped over things such as “Big Oil Problem” and “Dodged Another Bush.”
“You basically jump over corporate interest and Wall Street bulls and try and get to the end and try and get elected,” said the game’s creator, Grayson Earle of the game that was projected on a big screen. He made the game in just about two weeks in his spare time with The Illuminators, a political art project based in N.Y.C. “If you don’t win you just go back to the community and you reorganize and you try again.”
While many came to show their support, others came to rally for other causes that were near and dear to their heart.
Paul Schuberg, of Rockaway, Queens, stopped by with a “War Wagon” to support veterans.
His mobile cart was piled thick with campaign buttons, along with a donation jar adorned with the American flag. His goal was to sell buttons and raise money to donate to homeless vets who need food, shelter, and permanent housing.
While not an actual veteran himself, he called himself a veteran of “the war on poverty, the war on injustice.” Schubert said he votes based on the candidate, not the party.
“I am a voter,” said Schuberg. “I vote for the best person for the job after examining their history, their record, very carefully.”
Evan Siegel, of Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, came to support Sanders while distributing flyers to raise awareness about military spending.
“I think we need to have a conversation about that,” said Siegel as he continued to give out flyers to passerby. According to the flyer’s colorfully coordinated pie chart, 54 percent of federal income tax dollars are spent on the military budget, which Siegel viewed as a problem.
“Bernie at least says that we should freeze the military budget at its current level,” said Siegel. “I’m for protecting whatever is left of social equality in our country.”
A group called Black Men for Bernie also came out to support him.
Still, others at the rally just wanted to get in on the action.
April Brooker, of Sunnyside, Queens, had hopes of getting inside the venue. She carried a puppet of Donald Trump, who she referred to as “Donald J. Tramp.” Despite the puppet, she did not say she wasn’t a Trump supporter or which of the democratic candidates she supported.
“I’m investigating both sides,” said Brooker, mimicking the Trump puppet as though it were the one speaking. “I like a lot of what Bernie Sanders has to say, but I like the experience Hillary has, so that’s why I’m very eager to see how it turns out.”
Ronald Castorina, Jr. speaks at Richmond County Young Republicans. Photo by Dale Isip.
On Staten Island – the city’s most conservative borough – voters are hoping to make an impact on one of the most crucial presidential primaries in decades.
Members of borough’s the Richmond County Young Republicans met yesterday in the neighborhood, to discuss the election, listen to a Republican guest speaker and conduct a straw poll for the upcoming primary. Leading the event was Eric Campione, the RCYR president, who is active in organizing young Republicans in Staten Island.
“We’re a local club that helps Staten Island stay red, as I like to say.” said Campione. “We try and help political candidates that are Republicans stay on the ballots, and make sure that they get elected.”
Staten Island – with an estimated population of 474,558 in 2015 – is the borough with the highest number of registered Republican voters., In the last 12 general presidential elections, the majority of Staten Island voters have voted for Republican candidates nine times. They will have a chance to vote again.
Ron Castorina, Jr., a Republican who is running for New York State Assembly District 62 in a special election next week, was the night’s guest speaker. He spoke on the island’s heroin epidemic, education, and class issues.
“There are lots of issues in education where I don’t believe we should be giving money away to those who don’t deserve it,” Castorina said. “I do, however, I think we should be enhancing TAP, and we should be assisting those in the middle class to advance and to get ahead.”
Key to middle class issues in the presidential primary have been trade economics and tax plans. The Republican candidates have all argued for lower taxes, with some proposing more radical changes to the system than others.
Under Ted Cruz’s proposed tax plan, the seven personal income tax tiers will be simplified into one personal income tax rate of 10 percent. The plan also states that the first $36,000 of income for families of four will be tax-free. In addition, Cruz’s proposed plan eliminates the corporate income tax and will has a flat rate for business tax at 16 percent.
Propositions for a flat, or fair tax, have been common among Republican candidates for two decades, and have gained popularity among Republican voters.
“[T]here should be some sort of even tax distribution, based on the amount you make,” said George Palesano, a Republican-leaning retired member of the New York City Police Department. “Whether it’s federal tax on business services and no income tax, or everybody pays a flat tax with an equal amount of deductions.”
In contrast, Donald Trump’s proposed tax plan favors those making under $25,000 – and those married filing jointly with a combined income of less than $50,000. According to Trump’s website, this means that 75 million households will manage to avoid filing personal income taxes.
Campione, who helps run a plumbing heating and air conditioning company with his family, seemed to favor Trump’s plan because of this.
“In actuality, his tax plans benefit me because I don’t make that much money,” he said. “So I would be able to pay a lesser tax.”
Both Cruz and Trump’s plans are markedly different from the current 2015 single filer personal income tax brackets – and neither reaches the current rate of 39.6 percent for the top income bracket of over $413,200. Ohio Governor John Kasich has one of the most moderate rates of the proposed tax plans, with top income earners paying 28 percent.
In a straw poll conducted at the meeting, Trump won nine votes, Kasich won four votes, Cruz won one vote, and one was undecided.
“I actually read a poll somewhere a while ago. Trump was polling around 65 percent in the 11th Congressional district, which is our district,” said RCYR Secretary Patrick Donegan. “So in this small sample size, this is pretty much on target to what Trump was getting there.”
That Staten Island Republicans would favor Trump, and his economic policies, could be a result of the island’s demographics. Staten Island is the wealthiest borough in New York City, and this is especially true of the island’s mostly white, working and middle-class conservative South Shore – that is, neighborhoods below the Staten Island Expressway. Here median incomes range from $72, 495 to $83,441, depending on the neighborhood. In 2012, over three quarters of residents worked on the island itself, with a majority of jobs in health care, retail, and construction sectors.
The desire by many to reform or simplify taxation reflects middle class concerns among Staten Islanders, just one of many class concerns in this year’s presidential primaries.
“I just went and did my taxes, five or six sheets, I gotta save thousands of receipts, and not only that … people that are wealthy have more access to other ways of cutting their taxes,” said Palesano, “To me, that’s not fair.”
Breast feeding accessories are for sale at the Upper Breast Side, a store for new moms that is located on the Upper West Side. Photo by Elizabeth Arakelian
The new hot seller on the Internet marketplace is breast milk.
Advertisements regularly pop up on Craigslist and the website OnlytheBreast.com where anonymous moms sell their milk to the highest bidder, often proving the quality of their milk by describing their eating and exercise habits. Some even post photos of their babies as proof.
“Hi! I am a first-time mom to a handsome and healthy 4-month old boy,” wrote one Jackson Heights, Queens mom on recent Craigslist posting “I am drug-free, a non-smoker and still taking my prenatal vitamins. I eat a well-balanced diet and regularly go to the gym to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I am willing to sell my liquid gold to anyone.”
The mom is selling her breast milk for “$2 per ounce. Cash only.” and it’s a convenient way for overproducing moms to make money. But, it’s can be dangerous for the buyer according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which publicized warnings on its website against purchasing milk online.
“When human milk is obtained directly from individuals or through the internet, the donor is unlikely to have been adequately screened for infection disease of contamination risk,” the FDA writes.
If you’re going to buy milk, purchase it from a milk bank the FDA states, which New Yorkers will soon be able to due with the state’s first milk bank slated to open on Mother’s Day.
The New York Milk Bank is accredited by the Human Milk Bank of North America and is licensed by the New York State Department of Health. There are 21 milk banks in the United States and their function namely is to supply hospitals with breast milk for premature infants. But, mothers can buy milk directly from the milk bank with a prescription from their doctor.
“Mothers who give birth prematurely tend not to have enough milk so this can be a good option for them,” said Julie Bouchet-Horwitz, nurse practitioner and executive director for New York Milk Bank.
But, not all people seeking breast milk have just given birth. Others include parents of adopted children and cancer patients, as the milk has thought to have a necrotizing effect.
The breast milk that fuels the New York Milk Bank is donated by local mothers and the bank has established nine milk depot locations, or drop off sites, where screened mothers can bring their milk. The depots are operated by individuals in the industry, like physicians’ offices and a breastfeeding supply store, who then store the milk in a freezer before shipping it to the milk bank in Ardsley-on-Hudson. But, before mothers can donate their milk they’re first screened. Donating moms also need a letter from their physician and their baby’s doctor. Once approved, the donating moms are tested and prenatal records are examined to ensure the milk is safe.
“Then we accept her as a donor and we ask for a minimum of 150 ounces, but many women do much more than that,” said Bouchet-Horwitz.
The price for breast milk from the New York Milk Bank can be triple the price per ounce of what is offered online, but with the hefty price tag comes peace of mind said Bouchet-Horwitz.
“We know our milk is safe and that’s why we charge $4.50 an ounce,” said Bouchet-Horwitz, noting that the price covers testing the donors, staff, and equipment needs.
The milk bank’s success is dependent upon new mothers, like Katie McDermott, who are willing to donate their excess breast milk to help another family out.
“If you are unable to [breastfeed] and if somebody was able to give that gift, I think it’s just wonderful to know that another mummy out there is thinking ‘I want to keep your baby as safe as my baby,” said McDermott.
Dr. Perri Klass on the importance of breast feeding
The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City has an African American student population of less than seven percent. Even worse, designers of color represent less than one percent of designers available in major department stores. It isn’t that black people just aren’t designing. The answer might not be as simple as most people think.
The remains of Pier 6, Cromwell Center, Tompkinsville Staten Island. Photo by Dale Isip
As grey clouds drifted rapidly outside on a cool spring afternoon, Robert Honor sat and stared outside of his wine shop. With jazz music playing in the background, he looked as students, workers, and others passed by on a busy neighborhood street leading to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.
“We needed Cromwell Center before,” said Honor, a resident of the Staten Island neighborhood of St. George. “We need it more than ever.”
Staten Island’s Cromwell Recreation Center was a public park and sports facility that had been demolished in the years following its unexpected collapse in 2010. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is currently looking into three sites to rebuild the center. Now, neighborhood residents will finally have a chance to see the center, a staple of the neighborhood for decades, be rebuilt near their waterfront – the result of community efforts paralleling that of other neighborhoods in New York City.
“As a kid I’d occasionally come to Cromwell Center. Even as late as 10 years ago I was playing basketball there” said Honor, a co-owner of the wine store Honor Wines. “I also was aware that it was also a place that had programs for youth … my children, when they were younger, took advantage of some of the programs at Cromwell Center.”
Named after Staten Island’s first borough president George Cromwell, Cromwell Recreation Center was built on an existing pier in the Staten Island neighborhood of Tompkinsville starting in 1934. It was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), a program that promoted public works construction during the Great Depression. After it opened in 1936 – and a visit from Roosevelt himself in 1939 – it was home to galas, dances, and numerous sports activities and events. In more recent years, the facility housed a weight room, a computer room, and a basketball court.
The center was closed infrequently over the last two decades for repairs. Wood borer worms had eaten away at Pier 6, the structural foundation of the center. In 2000, the weight room was temporarily removed from Cromwell to nearby Lyons Pool, and in April 2010, the center was closed for further repairs to its roof and lobby. In May 2010 the roof collapsed unexpectedly, rendering the facility unusable. In January 2012 the Department of Parks and Recreation announced the center would be demolished.
Efforts by community organizations and elected officials since then have prompted the Parks Department to investigate ways to reinstate the facility in the surrounding area. The Department recommended three sites for the new center: the Staten Island Sanitation Department on nearby Victory Boulevard, the Children’s Aid Society’s Goodhue Center further inland, and finally Lyons Pool, right across the street (Murray Hulbert Avenue) from the original Cromwell Center.
“[City officials] were looking at three different sites, two of those sites – in our opinion as a coalition – are just not viable,” said Kelly Vilar, founder of the neighborhood group Let’s Rebuild Cromwell Recreation Center. “The only site that makes sense is Lyons Pool … it would reach out to the same population and would be able to serve everybody.”
Let’s Rebuild Cromwell, as well as other local residents, are now awaiting the results of a feasibility study, which will be taken into account in addition to a community survey that was distributed in late 2014. The funding for the study was the result of a competitive sealed bid process – a process that allows the city to hire contractors from the private sector – resulting in a two-year contract that began in July 2014 and will end in July of this year.
“We expect to have a report and final recommendations this fall,” said New York City Department of Parks and Recreation press officer Mario Lopez, in a statement, “[this] will help inform the City’s decision making.”
According to the city, the estimated amount of money needed for this study is $678,000, although local media reports put the figure at $700,000. Elected officials such as City Councilwoman Debi Rose, Borough President James Oddo and Richmond County District Attorney Michael McMahon have all expressed their support for a new center. After the study is released, the project will need to undergo a fund raising process of an undetermined length.
“We do not currently have funding for implementation,” said Lopez. “But [we] are actively working to secure funding.”
Bill de Blasio’s push for affordable housing in New York – and the land rezoning to come with it – is one reason why locals are concerned about accessible park and recreation spaces. In an effort to bring 200,000 units of affordable housing to the city, a total of 15 neighborhoods are proposed to be rezoned by the mayor, including some on Staten Island. This has brought concern about over-development among residents.
“People on the North Shore are concerned that the development down here is not just done for tourists,” said Honor. “If this project is not developed properly, we’ll essentially have created a gated community.”
The community push for park development in the face of rezoning on the waterfront parallels that of the Williamsburg-Greenpoint area of Brooklyn. When neighborhood was rezoned in 2005, residents there were promised an expanded Bushwick Inlet Park by then-mayor Michael Bloomberg. The city did not fulfill this promise, and has only responded in the face of extensive activism, including live protests and videos.
“The videos … helped strengthen and grow community support both in our area, but to like minded groups of people in different parts of the city,” said Steven Chelser, activist and co-chair of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. “We also engaged the press to hook into our story and run with it, and then most importantly, imposing our issue on the city, and it’s been continual and relentless.”
Though activism on Staten Island has been on a smaller scale, residents are similarly expressing concerns about building park and recreation facilities by the waterfront, ones that could accommodate residents both old and new.
“With all the nearly a billion dollars of development going into this area, it would be nice to see some amenities for the people who live here, and all the new people who will be coming here,” ” said Steven Joseph, a Tompkinsville resident and a supporter of Let’s Rebuild Cromwell.