The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park are happy to announce our January 2016 Friend of the Month: Ray Pultinas. Ray is the Sustainability Coordinator and an English teacher at Dewitt Clinton High School. According to students, he is known as “one of the best teachers in Clinton.” And from what we have seen it’s easy to understand why the students feel that way. Ray was one of the first teachers to sign up for our Bronx Stewardship for a Healthier Bronx program launched this fall. He and his students have been a pleasure to work with and we are looking forward to making this a long term partnership. Please join us in thanking Ray for all that he does for his students at Dewitt Clinton and all that he’s doing for Van Cortlandt Park.
How have you been involved with the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park?
As Sustainability Coordinator at DeWitt Clinton High School I feel it has been part of my job and responsibility to know and share information about local environmental groups as well as other resources. I’ve known about the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park for some time and probably first learned about the group simply by frequenting the park. This current school year, however, the sustainability classes that I teach have been participating in the group’s Wetlands Stewardship for a Healthier Bronx Program. John Butler and Sara Kempton have visited my classes twice to explore with my students the topic of watersheds and topographical mapping. A group of students, parents and community members led by John and Sara toured the park on a beautiful late October morning.
What is your favorite place in Van Cortlandt Park?
I happen to live very close to the park. Van Cortlandt Park is our big back yard and I run or bike the trails at least once per week year round. I especially love the Northwest Forest and there are a number spaces, off the beaten track, where I love to sit and draw, write or meditate. These are secret and sacred places for me. I could easily visualize from a stone outcropping that overlooks a deep and thick forest, for instance, how this hilly, rolling wooded landscape at one time existed throughout the Bronx.
What is your favorite memory of the Park ?
I think my favorite memory would have to be the first time that I saw the New York Philharmonic perform on the Parade Grounds. My young family and I heard about it, gathered our camping chairs, some blankets to lie on and a picnic and enjoyed beautiful music as night descended on the park. I remember before the show that lovely feeling of the spirit of community when I looked out and saw all the people and families and children and even the politicians working the crowds. It made me feel proud to belong and to have such a rich resource of a park in our own back yard.
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?
I am so excited about the plan to daylight Tibbett’s Brook south of Van Cortlandt Lake where it currently empties into the New York City sewer system at tremendous cost. I would love to see a greenway and bike path that extends all the way to the East River where the brook used to flow before the industrial era. The neglected and abandoned railroad corridor that presently exists there needs to become our community’s latest green way and in 20 years I hope to be able to say I remember when this beautiful space did not yet exist.