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Bronx recreation center faces setbacks during construction. Residents worried about what this means for kids

Bronx residents worried about lack of safe places for kids to play this summer
Bronx residents worried about lack of safe places for kids to play this summer 01:51

NEW YORK - Residents who live around St. Mary's Park in the South Bronx say they're worried their children won't have a safe place to play this summer.

With the Recreation Center closed for construction for the second year and drug problems happening in plain sight, residents are pushing for change.

Bronx residents say used needles, other garbage litter local park

The hill at St. Mary's Park in the South Bronx is often littered with garbage -- needles stuffed into rock crevices, condoms and alcohol can be found on a typical morning.

"We're living in two very different worlds," said resident Jessica Ortiz. "The city would be in up in arms if they had bags of needles sitting in Central Park. It would never happen in a million years."

CBS New York first reported on this story in April, and has followed the groups that work to clean it up

"I won't go there when the sun has gone down or even when the sun is going down," said resident Jacqueline Santiago.

But concerned residents say between the drug problems and the recreation center that's been under construction for two years, the city has left them in the dark with no safe place for the youth and community.

Bronx residents worry youth have no safe place to go this summer

"I would love to take them down the block, literally across the street from where we live. I don't know what they would run into there, I don't know who they would run into, I don't know physically what you would step on," explained Ortiz.

The New York City Parks Department says the St. Mary's Recreation Center has been undergoing renovations since 2022. Several setbacks have pushed the timeline back, including asbestos in the building, water drainage issues and deteriorating parts of the structure. 

Forty-year resident Carrie Nickens is now using a private garden around the corner for refuge.

"I haven't been going in the park because of the situation," said Nickens. "I will come here rather than be in the park in St. Mary's."

Nickens says she wished spaces like this existed for kids in the neighborhood, especially with school ending.

"It's been a slow process and we're not getting any results behind it," said Nickens. "We don't have so much recreation for the kids. The kids have to go out of their neighborhood for recreation."

The Parks Department says the completion date is set for April 2025 now.

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