Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas has laid out ambitious short and long-term plans to revitalize Memorial Field and remove contaminated soil from the park at a cost of $800,000 for taxpayers.
Thomas gave Memorial Field an “industrial strength valentine” on Wednesday, announcing a “two-prong” approach to reopen the once vibrant recreation hub that has laid in ruins for the better part of a decade.
“No cards, candy or flowers,” Thomas said at a press conference announcing the proposal. “Instead we brought bulldozers and dump trucks. Who says moving dirt and boulders can't be romantic? The point behind Valentine's Day is to show commitment, and these trucks are here- and in action - to show our unwavering commitment to restoring Memorial Field.”
In the short term, Thomas said that crews will grow out new grass in anticipation of a temporary track that will be installed over the summer, which the mayor said “would allow for walking, jogging, frisbee throwing, pick-up soccer and touch football games and other outdoor activities, with Memorial Field operating in much the same way as Westchester County runs passive parks like the one at the Kensico Dam.”
Thomas said that Mount Vernon expects to save about $500,000 by doing most of the work in-house and taking advantage of off-season, winter trucking rates. The total cost of this phase of restoration is expected to be about $800,000.
In the long term, Thomas envisions the installation of a turf field, eight-lane track and new grandstands, though he cautioned that it will take time to resolve the “financial, legal and operational issues that have delayed progress in the past.”
Mount Vernon Department of Public Works Commissioner Joseph Nigro said that once the field is graded - which helps move excess water from an athletic field - they will begin putting the track down.
“This is one of the biggest projects in Westchester, and Mount Vernon especially,” he said. “It has to get done, this is something that is 10 years in the making and the making is now.”
Once preliminary work on the track is concluded, Nigro said that they will begin working on the entranceway, fixing the fencing at the field and beginning the process of tearing down the grandstands, though he does have possible plans for repurposing the rafters above the stands.
“The stands have to come down, and there’s a good reason why. There are foundation cracks all the way through, and it would cost the city way too much money,” Nigro added. “I have a plan for the rafters, I’d like to cut them down and utilize them on the field for the historical value.”
"We are determined to get the gates open by summer and we are determined to resolve the problems that have been delaying the future vision for too long," Thomas said. "There's no better day than Valentine's Day to end the heartbreak at Memorial Field."
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