The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park are pleased to announce that our May 2015 Friend of the Month is Congressman Eliot Engel. Congressman Engel has always been an active supporter of parkland, especially those in his district which includes all of Van Cortlandt Park. The Friends are most thankful for the Congressman supporting the very first professional Trails Crew for the Park. He has also been an advocate for the Pedestrian Bridge over the Major Deegan. We are pleased that he will be honored and officially thanked at our Picnic Supper the evening of the Philharmonic next month.
How and when did you get involved with the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park?
My good friend, Marcia Allina, who is a long-time member of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, first introduced me to the group years ago. I had also heard great things about the innovative work FVCP had been doing from various other members of the community. I have always been proud of my lifetime record in Congress on environmental matters. As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over environmental legislation, I have always been engaged in these issues. I am pleased to have received high marks from the League of Conservation Voters over my career. The preservation of our parklands and greenways has always been a passion and priority of mine. As such, I knew FVCP was an organization I wanted to work with to help keep the Bronx as green as possible.
What is your favorite place in the Park?
It’s hard to pick a single favorite, as the entire park is filled with incredible natural beauty. Whether it’s the numerous sporting activities to participate in or watch, or the Memorial grove which brings quiet solace to our veterans, Van Cortlandt Park has something for everyone. Being the 3rd largest park in the City of New York, VCP has THE biggest parade ground in the entire city. So if I were forced to pick, I would probably say the parade ground, where so many people from all over come to spend time with their friends and neighbors and enjoy themselves, is the part of the park that stands out the most.
What is your favorite memory of the Park or event you have participated in?
Events that bring our community together are always a favorite of mine, and Van Cortlandt Park has no shortage of great community events. I have attended many little league games and races over the years, but last year’s Trail Master Killah 5k race, which one of my staff members participated in, had an extra connection for me. I also really enjoy the concerts at the park, especially when the Bronx Arts Ensemble and other local groups play. I look forward to those performances every year.
Parks just completed a Master Plan for the Park, what improvements would you like to see in Van Cortlandt Park in the next 20 years?
The construction of the foot bridge over the Major Deegan Expressway is something I and all the other local elected officials have been working on for some time now. I personally called the Mayor last year to let him know this was a major priority, not just for me but also for all of my colleagues in government and the FVCP, as well as those in the community. This project was a long time coming, and I am excited for construction to get underway soon.