PARK PROJECTS DELAYED

Memorial Grove contract snafu keeps vets waiting

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If there’s one word Herb Barret is tired of hearing, it’s “delay.”

Yet Mr. Barret — the force behind restoring Memorial Grove in Van Cortlandt Park near West 246th Street — is hearing it again. 

Mr. Barret, a Korean War veteran, has seen setbacks at every juncture. 

His campaign to restore the memorials to local men who died in World War II and the Korean War, aided by pal and WWII veteran Don Tannen, began in 2006 after he stumbled upon a dilapidated memorial under a tree in Van Cortlandt Park. 

Mr. Barret rallied local pols and the community board behind the idea. In 2007, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz was able to convince the Parks Department to clean up the area and install a wire fence around the Grove. Then, in 2009, Councilman Oliver Koppell allocated $250,000 and the Parks Department began planning a restoration. Still, the site remained untouched for more than a year while Parks tried to choose a contractor.

In April, it looked as though he had finally come to the home stretch. On April 11, VIF Contracting set up shop and built a staging area for future construction. 

But five months later, nothing has changed.

This latest delay can be attributed to a contractor subverting its requirements for hiring a woman- or minority-owned business.

According to an e-mail obtained by The Press from Parks project manager Michael Michalek to park administrator Margot Perron, the contractor “was not using their approved WMBE (women/minority owned business enterprise) for the fence work” and they “are contractually obligated to comply.”

A few weeks ago, a subcontractor started digging holes in the park, but the work was stopped shortly afterward.

Mr. Barret said he blames bureaucracy.

“The system they have is so cumbersome that they can’t get anything done,” he said.

Andrew Sandler, director of community affairs for Mr. Koppell, questioned how the subcontractor was able to start working in the park before officials realized it was not observing regulations. 

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