Even after the two candidates for chairperson called for civility and a return to rule-following for Community Board 8, last night’s meeting devolved into a tense and emotional shouting match over the intentions of the Parks Committee versus the wants of the community in calling for improvements to John Jay Park.
Community and board members at the meeting all agreed on one point – that transforming a section of John Jay Park into an adults-only recreation space, complete with rubber safety ground coatings for exercise classes, retrofitted benches, new landscaping and flowers, picnic areas, chess and checkers tables and exercise equipment, would be a welcome thing for the Upper East Side. Where the board divided, however, was on exactly how many pieces of exercise equipment should go there, how much money should be requested from the city council, and what kind of timeline the board should demand from the Parks Department.
City Council Member Jessica Lappin had secured $250,000 to be allocated to the park’s upgrades for the senior space, but estimates for the full project put the cost at closer to $1.4 million, with some believing that the Parks Department should simply scale down the plan and work within the lower budget and others wanting to hold out for the full amount. At particular issue at the meeting was whether or not the Parks Committee co-chairs, Barbara Rudder and Peggy Price, were acting out of turn in requesting that the Parks Department hold off on construction of the new section until more funds could be secured.
Eventually, following nearly an hour of heated debate complete with much shouting and finger-pointing, the board voted yes on a substitute resolution put forth by member Molly Blayney, asking the Parks Department to move forward immediately with plans and to work with the resources they’ve got. Still unresolved, however, is the disappointment that several board members expressed over how they believe the Parks Committee has handled the project, as well as the debate over how much equipment should go into the space, with some concerned that seniors using exercise machines unsupervised will result in injuries and accidents.
Read our story from earlier this year here; we’ll have the full update in next week’s issue of Our Town.