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Morris Park: Tear down that rink

Bronx Times

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. heard it from Morris Parkers - tear down Loreto Playground’s concrete roller rink.

“We need to get rid of that thing. It’s become a dog walk!” jeered Frank Agovino, drawing applause from a packed crowd at the Morris Park Community Association meeting Sept. 4th.

Well before he even stopped by the association, Diaz heard objections against the rink when he attended the Bobby Rydell concert on Aug. 21 at Loreto Park.

“So many residents whispered the same thing in my ear,” said Diaz, joining the executive board that’s regularly heard the case to destroy the underutilized rink.

“Unfortunately, I have to agree the rink’s not being used as it was intended,” said Joseph Carfora, former head of the Morris Park Roller Hockey League, which fully backed the rink when it opened to great fanfare in 2005. “It was the right thing to do at the time.”

Loreto Park, named after slain NYPD officer Alfred Loreto, houses a bocce court, playground and basketball courts. Except for the times neighborhood children from St. Francis Xavier take advantage of the rink during recess, use of the rink is null save for a handful of adults who organize a night game.

Former City Councilwoman Madeline Provenzano pushed for the rink after receiving signatures from local hockey leagues with large memberships.

Carfora personally went to City Hall to give a PowerPoint presentation on the rink’s merits. His case was enough for the Council to earmark over $1 million in funds.

Parks Dept. crews eventually built the rink, replacing a softball field heavily used by adult leagues that charged players to join it.

But by ripping out the field, unintended consequences emerged, with little to no families visiting the park to watch a ball game anymore.

Soon after the field closed, other businesses began to close early, including nearby Ann Clair’s Salumeria, where locals ordered deli eats during games, according to Agovino.

“Ann Clair’s used to be open at 9 o’clock at night,” said Agovino. “Now they close at 6 o’clock.”

Still, the roller hockey league saw its heyday, thanks to recurring sponsorships and a robust membership.

“Three hundred children played in that rink,” recalled Carfora. “It wasn’t like three hundred kids from another neighborhood.”

Demand, however, slowly dwindled, with members growing out of the league’s age requirements. Equipment costs also contributed to lack of interest.

The executive committee has pressed Councilman Jimmy Vacca to find funds needed to restore the field, arguing it will better serve the neighborhood kids who play ball elsewhere.

While sources admit it will be unlikely for the council to secure funds to bring back the field, Diaz assured neighbors he’s open to discussing the issue further.

For now, a gift has turned into a boondoggle.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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