Park stairs' repair Could cost $500,000

| 28 Sep 2015 | 02:51

A heavily damaged stairway leading to a Riverside Park soccer field could cost about $500,000 to refurbish and months to repair.

Since capital projects are typically funded by the city council through specific line items at budget time, John Herrold, the president of the Riverside Park Conservancy, acknowledged that it could be another nine months before renovation is under way.

“We’re trying to see if there’s some other way to do it,” said Herrold, who also is the Park and Recreation Department’s administrator for the park. “This is time sensitive because it’s such a key access point.”

Several kids’ leagues use the field, on the park’s lower level at the level of about 101st Street, nearly year-around. During weekends, practices and games take place throughout the day. An entrance at the southwest end of the park is now the only practicable entry to the field.

A gate to the stairway was closed earlier this year after several long flagstone steps loosened and workers discovered a hole through one of the landings. “It was getting worse and worse,” Herrold said. “It was deteriorating very rapidly.”

About half of the stairway has since been taken apart and Cyclone fencing was set up at the top and bottom of the stairs. Youngsters nevertheless scamper around the fencing, climb along a retaining wall about 15 feet high and around protruding anti-climbing iron spikes.

A parks department spokeswoman said the $500,000 estimate, which she characterized as a “very general range,” is based on the cost of similar previous projects. A more exact price breakdown won’t be known until the project goes out for bids, she and Herrold both said.

“No one knows what it will cost,” Herrold said. “It can’t happen until the money is available.”

Herrold said the heavy winter likely damaged and weakened the stone beds.

A statement from the parks department said the agency is “actively seeking funding to reconstruct the staircase as soon as possible.”

Herrold said the conservancy, which pays for smaller-scale projects and maintenance, with the parks department responsible for securing capital funding for large capital projects, is helping the department locate funding for the repairs.

“We’re all putting our heads together,” he said. “We want it open.”

A statement from Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal’s office said she is aware of the stairway’s poor condition. The statement said Rosenthal, who has helped funnel money toward several park projects, would advocate for additional funds for the park generally through both the participatory budget process and her office’s discretionary funds.