Miriam Gomez hates what she sees when she visits Henry Hudson Park. Although a renovation began last year, it’s still not finished, and the rest of the park has been neglected, turning formerly flat green lawns into stretches of tall grasses and weeds.
Bushes spill out onto the sidewalk along Independence Avenue, and the same is true for loose soil along Kappock Street. And when it rains, Gomez can only watch as the soil runs into the street.
The 8-acre park was developed in the late 1980s and named for the famous English sea explorer, like just about everything else along the river that also bears his name. Yet, even Hudson might not like what he’d find on this small tract of land, Gomez said.
Like the patches of overgrown plant life, which provide shelter to rats who have since made the park their home.
“This is where the rat was, in the sandbox,” Gomez said during a recent visit, pointing to the park’s playground.
“If you’re walking on Independence, you’ll see the rats running back and forth,” said Karen Gallagher, another park visitor who lives nearby on Kappock. “My kids are grown, but if I had children here, I wouldn’t allow them to play in the park.”
It’s not clear why the park has been neglected, Gomez said, but she believes someone used to stay at a house in the park who managed its maintenance around the clock.
Bob Bender, Community Board 8’s parks committee chair, said he was not sure what happened to the person maintaining the park, but didn’t believe he was ever there full-time.
“A lot of parks people are in charge of two or three parks, but are stationed in one park,” Bender said. “This person was stationed in the lower part of the Henry Hudson Park, but I am not aware of a change in assignment of the employee.”
Whether someone is stationed to the park doesn’t matter, Gomez said, because it’s obvious nothing is being done to maintain it. She tried to call Councilman Andrew Cohen’s office, but was told to reach out to 311 instead.
“The last email from Cohen’s office was that they were going get the health department to take a look at this,” Gomez said. “What are we waiting for?”
“I know we’ve forwarded the complaint to the parks department several times,” Cohen said. “We’ve referred the complaint to the parks department.”
But there are new things on its way to Henry Hudson Park. A basketball court has been constructed but not yet opened, for example, but the backboards are still covered in blue plastic wrap. And there are no hoops. Newly installed benches and the park’s bathroom are both blocked off by fences.
The city’s parks department includes basketball and handball courts renovation at Henry Hudson Park on its capital project tracker, noting work began last October and is scheduled to be done in time for Halloween.
The work, according to the tracker, is 67 percent done as of Aug. 16.
As for the overgrown lawns, Bender isn’t sure what can be done at this point.
“That’s been the case with every park this summer,” he said. “The parks department is not able to keep up with what happens in summer with the grass and bushes growing so fast. They always seem to be behind in maintenance in the summertime.”
While Gomez wants to blame current construction at the park for its current state, neighbor Rhea Viradi says the park has been neglected at least since she moved into the community four years ago.
“I assumed when they did renovations they would do landscaping, too,” Viradi said. “It’s the same as the subways. They build showcases like the Seventh Avenue line, but then they don’t take care of the rest of the subway. Here, they have the showcase beautiful court, but don’t take care of the rest.”
But not all of Henry Hudson Park is suffering. Volunteers tend to the area north of Kappock, keeping lawns and plants tidy and the park itself clean.
That’s great, Viradi said, but “you can’t ask volunteers to take care of the whole park.”