No more fencing in Vannie

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Four years after the Department of Parks and Recreation began its $15 million reconstruction of Van Cortlandt Park’s Parade Ground, the fences are finally coming down. 

Work on the 65-acre fields, which began in 2008 and has been marred by a series of delays and disappointments, came to an end when workers began to dismantle the chain-link fences around the southern half of Van Cortlandt Park’s Parade Ground field on Tuesday morning.

Now, cricket players will have a chance to use the eight new fields to finish out this year’s season (two were opened previously) and cross-country runners may once again use a portion of it as they did for years before the construction.

The first stage of the project, which included reseeding and renovating baseball and soccer fields on the northern half of the Parade Ground, was completed in 2010.

The second stage, which began before the first was completed and involves reseeding the cricket fields, was to be partially completed in April 2011, when sections of the field were scheduled to reopen. That deadline was pushed back to “late summer or early fall” 2011 because the grass was not “knitting.”

But in September 2011, the deadline was pushed back another full year because Parks determined that the field contained too many weeds and “other disqualifying elements.” Parks asked contractor William A. Gross Construction, which the department has worked with many times before, to reseed the fields.

By press time Tuesday afternoon, workers had removed half the fences.

Parkgoers were relieved to see workers finally taking the fences down, even if it only meant their morning walks on the stone dust track will no longer be obstructed by an ugly fence.

“It looks great,” Enrique Galarza, 74, said on a walk around the field Tuesday, adding, “It took too long.”

In the years preceding the construction, the Parade Ground had turned into a “dust bowl,” in the words of Park Administration Margot Perron. On Tuesday, the field was covered in goose feces and small clusters of mushrooms, but the grass was dark green and plush.

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