Roberto Clemente State Park, pictured above, is in Morris Heights
(File photo by Rebecca Chao)
Last Friday, Governor David Paterson and State Park officials proposed closing 55 parks and historic sites across the state, and reducing services at another 24, as they look for ways to dent the state’s $8.2 billion budget deficit.
Roberto Clemente State Park, the Bronx’s only state park, wasn't among them, to the relief of Joel Marcano, the co-executive director of the non-profit New York City Metro Baseball League, a men's league that uses the park’s floodlit ball field on weekday evenings and at weekends.
But the 25-acre park, which sits on the edge of the Harlem River, could still be impacted.
If the Legislature rejects Paterson’s plan to move $5 million from the state's Environmental Protection Fund to State Parks’ operating budget, scores of additional parks, Roberto Clemente included, would be added to the governor’s list, a State Parks spokesperson said.
In fact, if the $5 million isn't reallocated, the State will propose doing exactly what Marcano had feared – close the park in the evenings. (Environmental groups have already begun lobbying legislators to make sure the money stays where it is.)
Thousands of people would be affected if the park's hours were scaled back. Dozens of leagues, schools and colleges use the baseball field. And the picnic area, playground and basketball courts, are popular with local residents, as are the fitness classes held in the park's main building.
In a telephone interview, State Sen. Jose M. Serrano, whose district includes Roberto Clemente, said he opposed cuts there and elsewhere.
“I’m frankly very disappointed in the governor for entertaining this,” he said.
Earlier this month, Serrano, the chair the Senate's Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation, sent a letter to his colleagues. He wrote:
We recognize that we are confronted by challenging fiscal realities, but even in these financially difficult times we cannot risk losing our state’s most magnificent treasure—our parks.Marcano, for his part, has created an online petition with the aim of keeping Roberto Clemente open at night. So far, 270 people have signed it.
Paterson's recommendations, put forward in his executive budget, are just that: recommendations. The State Senate and Assembly have the final say on what receives funding and what doesn't. Legislators have until April 1st to enact the budget.