Following inquiries from this blog, a spokesperson for the MTA said the agency will soon remove no trespassing signs from a small park on Dahlgren Place, restoring full access to a small bit of greenspace given to the community after the construction of the Verrazano Bridge and beautified by dedicated locals.
The lot, on the west side of the block between Fort Hill Place and 92nd Street (closer to the former), is surrounded by a fence, but the entrance gate has been unlocked since the local community board requested community access. “We have a very good relationship with the [community board] there and do all that we can to be good neighbors,” MTA spokesperson Judie Glave wrote in an email. (UPDATE: The community board had requested access in 2002 after a meeting with the Dahlgren Place Homeowners Association, which requested it. The park is maintained with the help of Dahlgren Place residents, who over the years have worked with MTA Bridges and Tunnels, Community Board 10 and elected officials to improve the lot, including the planting of more shrubs and trees, according to an email from Community Board 10 district manager Josephine Beckmann.)
Yet the park has also been marked incongruously with conspicuous No Trespassing signs, scaring off would-be users, even as an alluringly shady bench just begs to be sat on, and an invitingly sunny, well-maintained grassy field makes it look like an absurd urban oasis—despite the Verrazano offramp directly behind it.
Until the late-middle 20th century, there were homes here; houses lined the length of Dahlgren Place. In his novel The Death of Dahlgren Place, Eliot Sefrin evokes life on the block in the late 1950s.
There mere location of Dahlgren Place had always provided a palpable sense that we were sheltered from the world at large, far from the sight line of city officials and, in many ways, virtually invisible. Few cars ever traversed our street…Suddenly, though, our quiet, forgotten street seemed exceedingly visible—and just as vulnerable. Situated literally at the foot of the proposed bridge, Dahlgren Place lay directly in the path of the proposed expressway.
Many of the 7,000 people displaced by the Verrazano Bridge lived on Dahlgren Place. Because an acre of land leftover from the finished ramps was too oddly shaped to contain houses, it was turned into a park, as shown on maps from 1964.
As compared to this map from 1916:
Access to that park has been restricted over the years, and most of it runs alongside the ramps, resembling little more than stereotypical parkway-adjacent greenery. Some of the rest is off-limits, presumably for safety concerns, as it runs directly beneath the ramps. But the remaining little triangular lot on the south end of Dahlgren Place has a high wall on its western edge, creating a sense of separation from the expressway, making it an ideal spot for sunning, reading or taking a nap—just the sorts of things parks are for.
It’s charming—if small consolation for the decimation wrought by the Span to Staten Island.
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