MANHATTAN – We’re now getting our first look at what nearly $9 million in funding will do to renovate long-neglected Ruppert Park on the Upper East Side, and chances are you’ll love the new design, as long as you aren’t a dog owner or disabled.
The redesign has glaring errors, one of which is the absence of a dedicated dog run— despite dog owners having already allowed their pets to turn two sections of the park into a dog run, destroying all the vegetation in those areas in the process, accelerating the overall deterioration of the park, which sits between 90th and 91st Streets along Second Avenue.
At July’s announcement of the millions in funding, Council Member Ben Kallos said “Ruppert Park is going to get a complete redesign to become a destination park in the neighborhood that everyone will want to go to,” though the new design seems to be less of a destination and more of a rearrangement.
The plan proposed to a Community Board 8 committee shows what’s described as a future ‘comfort station’— better known to humans as restrooms— in place of the area where dog-owners have destroyed the grass by using it as a dog run, if they secure more funding in the future.
However, without that future funding (which doesn’t currently exist), the barren stretch in northeast corner of the park appears destined to receive only a fresh patch of grass— ready to be destroyed by neighbors who will continue to use the space as a dog run.
“People been ticketed, all kinds of things happened, but people continue to use the space as a dog run and they won’t stop” said Mubeen Saddiqui of Muslim Volunteers for New York, which helps with upkeep of the park.
“We need to also meet the needs of the entire community.”
As part of the redesign, the park will be made more accessible to those with disabilities, removing steps from all of the park, except for a single staircase. A representative for NYC Parks told the community board committee it chose to include the obstacle for our disabled neighbors because of a ‘substantial’ grade change.
In that case, it’s important to note two things — the design calls for stairs to be removed from other sloped areas and construction will be used to ease the slope in other areas of the park.
Additionally, any mobility-disabled person will tell you, partial accessibility is not accessibility.
Disabled persons who cant navigate a staircase will instead be required to walk all the way to the north end of the park and back down in order to access the space on the other side of the stairs.
During the meeting, the Parks representative repeatedly referred to accessibility in terms of access for those in wheelchairs and with strollers. We can assure NYC Parks that pushing a stroller is not a disability, and those who are disabled come in many shapes and sizes and may not require a wheelchair.
There appears to be no thought given to our neighbors who use a cane, walking stick, walker, crutches or simply have a difficult time walking or using stairs stairs without the need for an assisting-device.
In its presentation, NYC Parks states that one goal of the redesign is to provide access throughout the park— which the proposed layout will not accomplish, unless viewing accessibility solely through the eyes of an able-bodied person who doesn’t really understand the difficulties faced by disabled New Yorkers from hostile architecture.
That’s hardly accessible. Still, it would be an improvement over the current design which can be described as hostile to the disabled community— the park itself separated by staircases leaving a swath off limits if entering from Second Avenue.
In a statement to Upper East Site, NYC Parks said “it’s important to note that the project is still in the early design stages and the design is not yet final. We presented a concept plan at last week’s meeting and plan to return to the Community Board 8 Parks and Recreation Committee with formal design proposals on January 13.”
A source familiar with the project said that the remaining staircase could not be removed due to existing tree roots.
Some other changes in the redesign include lower fences around the park, some new playground equipment and new areas for passive activities like sunbathing or reading a book.
Ruppert park was built in 1979, but didn’t join the NYC Parks system until 1997— the year it received its last upgrade.
We’ve reached out to NYC Parks and Council Member Kallos regarding the absence of a dog-run and full accessibility— we’re waiting to hear back.