By Jennifer L. Warren
POUGHKEEPSIE – Ernest Henry took a proud stance as he surveyed the view: Shiny, new blue and red basketball courts, a curved gym apparatus with aqua-hued rope ladders and lime green stools, and smiling, laughing children, as he prepared to deliver words from behind the podium.
“What will remain here years from now will be deeply rooted in the people who took care of this place,” affirmed Henry of the Hudson Valley Reentry Network. “That’s what will truly matter.”
That enduring community imprint has already been solidified at the revamped Malcolm X Park in the City of Poughkeepsie, where an official Ribbon-cutting Event was held Thursday, marking its long-awaited, many deemed: much- overdue, reopening. Henry passionately spoke of the heartfelt, united journey a wide assortment of people in the City of Poughkeepsie willingly embarked upon to make this day a reality. From a contingent of local high school students, to members of the Reentry Network, to local City Council members, to the residents themselves, a promise was solidified to change the narrative of the once drug needle-riddled, shady activity laden Park, shaming the name of the man whose name it bore. With the added help of partners New City Parks and Scenic Hudson, momentum for that new story picked up further speed along with hope.
“I’m so glad this park is called Malcolm X, a brash man who held nothing back,” Dutchess County Executive, William F.X. O’Neill, remarked at Thursday’s Ribbon-cutting. “This is what Poughkeepsie needs more of and is such a great community effort.”
Many of those community players were in attendance at the Ribbon-cutting showing their unwavering support for a critical outdoor project that was and remains aimed at breathing life into not only a local park, once neglected, but so too into its visitors, especially the youth.
“This is about redesigning and reimaging parks that for too many years were left out while monies were put elsewhere,” said City of Poughkeepsie Mayor, Marc Nelson. “I’m very proud to be Mayor at a time when Poughkeepsie is going to do the right thing.”
Providing a huge catalyst to that end was the local environmentally-driven organization, Scenic Hudson, a pivotal partner in the Park’s realization. A half a million dollar collaborator, along with New Scenic Parks (responsible for the storage water grant), Scenic Hudson, starting in 2017, was involved in well-attended and energetic listening sessions with Poughkeepsie’s north side residents. Rippling throughout those discussions was a dire need for safe spaces, allowing people to get out in nature; the focal point to that end was a pressing desire to resurrect the City-owned, since 1979, Malcolm X Park, which had been void of any upgrades. The community members spoke and Scenic Hudson listened and delivered.
“This is a special place that amplifies community pride, showing the power of partnerships,” said Seth McKee, Scenic Hudson Land & Trust and Land Programs Executive Director. “We look forward to helping out with future projects like this one and seeing this Park in action as it plays a role in shaping the lives of people in the City of Poughkeepsie.”
Not only has the Park received a cosmetic overhaul, but many would agree, the symbolic meaning behind its namesake has been ignited.
“This is a great day, and I’m here to thank the community,” said Rose Harvey, Executive Director of New City Parks. “May we all live up to the inspiration provided by Malcolm X.”
If you have not yet had the chance to see all the beauty in and brimming excitement over the new Malcolm X Park, mark your calendars: On Saturday, July 15, from 4-8pm, come out to the Malcolm X Park Community Reunion Festival with a lawn chair or something to sit with for a fun day, filled with; food, performances, arts, crafts, games, trivia and prizes.
For more information, to be a vendor or donate, contact: IBenitez@ywcaulstercounty.org or call (845) 392-4388.