Parks Department Outlines $6.4M Seward Park Upgrades, Coming Late 2019

Posted on: May 12th, 2017 at 5:00 am by

Seward Park, the oldest municipal park in the country, is headed for a massive makeover … in two years.

Thanks in part to hard-fought battles for funding and upgrades by its namesake conservancy, Seward Park last year scored $6.4 million as part of the “Parks Without Borders” program to reinvigorate the parkland. It’s certainly a long time coming for the 3.4 acre green space; the last time the park received such major attention was during the 2000-era makeover.

Last night, landscape architect Chris Crowley from the Parks Department presented the proposal to the Parks subcommittee of Community Board 3. Their plan incorporated much of the feedback garnered over the course of several scoping sessions held by the Seward Park Conservancy, and was almost unanimously lauded.

Below are a few quick hits of what to expect:

  • The marquee area of improvement is the wide plaza space outside the landmark Seward Park Library. The former street bed – it was once part of Jefferson Street – will be replaced with surfacing in the “academic paving pattern” seen in places like the Columbia University library (chevron brick pattern with granite-limestone band). There will be a larger garden area, game tables, lawn, and small amphitheater for “sitting and storytelling.”
  • The so-called “Schiff Mall” – where the dry fountain sits – will also receive attention. The “blue stone pavement” will be reconstructed, and the complex series of smaller fences removed. Immediately outside the park, low maintenance concrete slab will replace the stretch of trip-worthy hex blocks that have been busted for years.
  • The most controversial element of the plan is a reduction in height of the perimeter fencing from seven feet to four feet. This could have major implications on park loitering, since, as it stands, the area tends to get pretty dicey at nightfall. However, Crowley was quick to quip that he met with 7th Precinct brass, who didn’t feel that a lower fence would necessarily correlate to higher crime.
  • All five entrances will be open during park hours, but gates will be locked thereafter. This led at least one member of the public to question the point of locking a fence that’s only four feet tall.
  • Renovation of the basketball court is a separate project, but the designers will install an outdoor exercise room in the corner of the unused space.
  • Schiff Fountain, which received a plumbing upgrade as part of the 2000 remodeling, is not part of the agenda here. Nor is any potential rejiggering of Straus Square.
  • The effects of construction on the active rat population was not discussed.
  • Timeline: construction begins shortly after Labor Day 2018. The park will be out of commission for a year, with completion the following summer.

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