Take out the old bring in the new: Soundview Park

Take out the old bring in the new: Soundview Park

By Olivia Eubanks

The reputation of Soundview Park not being safe goes back decades. One of the most notorious murders was more than two decades ago. The body of 15-year old Eva Suazo riddled with bullets was found in the Bronx River on April 30, 1996. The case was never solved. This past April a 53-year-old man was found dead with a gunshot to the face in Soundview Park.

These stories are nothing new to Soundview residents as stories similar to these this have been in the news for the past 22 years.

“I used to be scared to walk by that park,” said a long time Soundview resident in a parks meeting.

Park safety has been at the forefront of discussion among community board members in Soundview. At a parks meeting in September, community board members requested more park lighting at Soundview Park, which they have also put in their annual district needs statement for the past five years.

“The lighting is horrifying, it’s completely dark,” said a new community board member. Board members discuss how the park is safe during the day but still scary in the evening.

There have been 13 lamp posts installed in Soundview Park since 2014. Nine lamp posts were installed near the running track and athletic field in 2014, and four lamp posts were installed near the playground and basketball court in 2017.

The city neglected to take action on park safety until 2015, following the death of local college student Christian Negron in Pugsley Creek Park, two miles from Soundview. Pugsley received an $100,000 grant to increase safety at the park. Since then, the city had 40 call boxes put throughout four Bronx Parks, including Soundview and Pugsley. From 2014 to 2017, crime has went down to one crime a year in Pugsley Creek, while Soundview has up to four crimes per year, according to NYC parks department crime statistics.

Although park safety is still at the forefront over the years it has improved. Once a scary place filled with gang violence and crime during the day, Soundview community members have taken steps to make a change in Soundview Park.

This 205 acre park is now an enjoyable place for residents to come. Longtime Bronx residents say that Soundview Park us

ed to only be an outdated playground and an unusable baseball field filled with wildlife. “I remember when this park was just woods full of pheasants, rabbits and rats,” said a Bronx resident on a Facebook review for Soundview Park.

Known as the “Gateway to the Bronx River,” Soundview Park is now home to a renovated track, baseball field, and barbeque pits for residents.

Soundview Park. Photo credit: Olivia Eubanks

It features a new field house, amphitheater, and a butterfly mediation garden, and hosts festivals, concerts, and family barbecues. During the school year, kids play on the playground and little league teams practice on the baseball fields.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Lucy Aponte, longtime resident of Soundview walked by the park daily and in 2001 she decided she needed to make a change. After making over 200 calls to the Parks Department and attending all community parks committee meetings for nine years, she started a Soundview Park community group called Friends of Soundview in 2010.

Within a few years of launching Friends of Soundview, the Parks Department installed a butterfly mediation garden, amphitheater, and field house. Friends of Soundview also partnered with Bronx River Alliance to make kayaking and canoeing available to residents.

Soundview Park Art and Music Festival is one of the biggest events held in the park for the past eight years with free fitness programs, live entertainment, and crafts available to all residents.

Their impact has outsized their small group of six members. “We are the eyes and ears of the community, voicing their needs to the Parks community board,” said Aponte.