By Carol Tannenhauser
Don’t try to enter Theodore Roosevelt Park from Columbus Avenue and 79th Street; that entrance was blockaded Thursday morning. And if you enter the park at 81st and Central Park West, you’ll make it to the dog run, but not much further; green fences will stop you at the Nobel Monument.
Preparations for the construction of the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, at the American Museum of Natural History, have begun. The section of the park involved has been completely closed off, except to construction workers, who are erecting the barriers and digging a path around the periphery of the park with heavy machinery.
According to a message from the Museum sent to community members at the end of August, here’s what’s going on:
“In the first two weeks of September, we expect to begin work on the temporary park access path near 80th Street. Tree protection will also be installed over the next several weeks, based on consultation with the New York City Parks Department. Once the path is installed and the tree protection is installed, we will begin to install the site fence. Materials for this work, and for the site fence, will be delivered and staged in the park. With installation of the site fence, the pedestrian islands at 79th Street will be removed to allow for temporary protected pedestrian and bicycle paths around the site fence. We expect that this work will take approximately 4-6 weeks following the installation of the temporary park path.”
Work is proceeding despite the fact that a lawsuit was filed on March 15th in New York State Supreme Court by Community United to Save Theodore Roosevelt Park, a nonprofit group fighting to stop the construction of the Gilder Center, on the grounds that it was incorrectly approved by the city and, “if completed, would cause catastrophic environmental damage to the area, posing a series of life-threatening health hazards to residents of, and visitors to, the Upper West Side of Manhattan,” the suit says. Oral argument has been scheduled for Tuesday, October 2nd, at 9:30 AM, at 80 Centre Street, Courtroom 278.
Community United declined to comment, referring us to their lawyer, who was not immediately available. The Museum released the following statement:
“As described in the August 30 Gilder Center update email and on the website, the work underway in the Park relates to the installation of the construction site fence for the Gilder Center project. It includes work on a temporary park access path near 80th street as well as the installation of tree protection. Once the path is completed and the tree protection is installed, we will begin to install the site fence.
Regarding the court date, the Museum doesn’t comment on pending litigation.”