Schenectady County

Group pleased with park project

A community action group that lobbied the city to fix up Jerry Burrell Park gave the effort an “A” i

A community action group that lobbied the city to fix up Jerry Burrell Park gave the effort an “A” in a progress report delivered from the inner city park Thursday afternoon.

Christopher Dixon, co-chairman of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, said the city delivered on nearly 100 percent of the group’s requests.

“We had a campaign and 90 percent of what we asked for was fixed expeditiously. We’re proud of that,” Dixon said.

The park has a history of drug and violence problems and was scene of a murder last year.

ACORN launched the effort in June, asking the city to install or replace fencing around play areas, clean the park and its restrooms on a daily basis, improve the pavilion area, add more play equipment and fix existing equipment. ACORN submitted a list of at least 20 items.

The city responded by spending some $15,000 on the park, according to Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard.

“They did a good job,” Blanchard said of ACORN’s appeal. “There was some neglect here. This was the only park that had so much attention this year. It might be the only park that needs it as well.”

Improvements include new fencing around a play area for young children, new tables, a new water fountain and a new, expanded pavilion. The city cleans the restrooms and the park every day; it has fixed most of the playground equipment; and it plans to install new playground equipment as soon as it arrives.

The to-do list still includes graffiti on park walls and equipment and park rule signs remain unposted, according to ACORN.

Dixon said the park is a clean, safe place for children, thanks to efforts by the city, the police and community groups, such as Schenectady Inner City Ministry, the Hamilton Hill Arts Center and the Schenectady YMCA.

“I haven’t heard of any incident here in months,” Dixon said.

Jawana Swing, site coordinator for the Schenectady YMCA’s Jerry Burrell Summer Camp Program, has also noticed a tremendous difference at the park this year. This is her third year at the park with the program, which offers daily activities and gang-prevention education, and which works with SICM to offer free lunches. The program attracts some 35 children per day.

Last year, she said, the Schenectady YMCA had to send up a crew each day to clean restrooms because the city did not do the job. She also would not allow children to go to the playground, calling it unsafe for a lack of fencing.

“The playground was not a place for children to go,” Swing said.

This year, the park is “cleaner, it’s more decent,” Swing said. As she spoke, more than a dozen children frolicked on play equipment, shot baskets or got wet under the large mushroom-shaped sprinkler.

Swing said some parents remain afraid of the park, but others drop off their children with confidence at the free YMCA program. The program ends today; it ran 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

“There are more things for them to do now,” Swing said.

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