West Thames Park still a muddy mess
BY Terese Loeb Kreuzer
West Thames Park on the eastern side of Battery Park City between West Thames and Albany Streets opened with fanfare on Memorial Day weekend of 2010, but not long after, the playing field just south of the Rector Street pedestrian bridge turned to mud. It is still muddy, in more ways than one.
The park was constructed by the New York State Department of Transportation using $9.4 million in federal funds derived from a post-9/11 transportation infrastructure recovery package of $4.55 billion allocated for work on Route 9A (West Street) between Chambers Street and the Battery.
During the reconstruction of the park, which took eight months, the playing field was leveled and sod was laid down. In order to give time for the grass to knit, the lawn opened in mid-June.
The D.O.T. became the legal owner of the property while the work was in progress. When construction was finished and deemed satisfactory, the Hudson River Park Trust was to be declared the owner and the Battery Park City Authority was to maintain the park.
But although the D.O.T. apparently accepted the park from its contractors, Tully Construction and E.E. Cruz, the playing field has been far from satisfactory, and for months, fingers have been pointed as to what’s wrong, how to fix it, who’s to blame and who will end up paying.
Battery Park City Authority executives realized from the beginning that there was a problem. Consequently, the Authority has not signed an agreement with Hudson River Park Trust to assume maintenance responsibilities. During the summer, the B.P.C.A. conducted soil tests that showed that the wrong kind of sod had been laid down. In November, the D.O.T. said that the problem wasn’t the sod but the Authority insisted, based on its soil tests, that the sod was not what had been ordered for the site. It has a clay base that retains water, the Authority said, and not a sandy base that would allow water to drain.
The Authority said that the sod had to be ripped out and replaced. Starting in mid-April, this is what will happen under the D.O.T.’s auspices. The work should be finished by the end of May and then the new sod will need four weeks to knit. During this time, the lawn will be closed.
“I don’t think the determination has been made yet as to who is going to pay for replacing the sod,” said Adam Levine, spokesperson for the D.O.T. “Currently it’s with our claims office. That’s a conversation we’re having with our contractor.”
“The [D.O.T.] should never have accepted [the playing field] from their contractor,” said a Battery Park City Authority executive. “They have legal issues in terms of the remedies with their contractor, so not only is the field muddy, the whole relationship is muddy.”
Meanwhile, according to Levine, the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy is informally maintaining the park — sweeping, collecting trash, hosing down the dog run and informing the D.O.T. if any of the playground equipment, which is still under warrantee, needs to be repaired. There is no written contract in place for this service and there will be none until the construction and legal issues are sorted out and the Hudson River Park Trust accepts ownership.
One piece of playground equipment that attracted a lot of attention when the park opened was a new tire swing that replaced a beloved tire swing that had been in the park for years. Within days of the opening, two children had bumped their heads on the support structure of the new tire swing. The swing was taken down, put back and then taken down again.
Community Board 1 has approved it going back in, and according to Levine, the D.O.T. is currently in discussions with the Battery Park City Authority as to when that will happen.