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Community rallies to keep Riverbank State Park open

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 5:29 p.m.

"I come four or five days a week to this park," said Jacqueline Iszard, who is retired. "I do water aerobics and I also go to the art classes. I would be devastated. I've been coming here since the park opened. A lot of seniors come here and it's good for them to come out here and socialize. This is a part of my routine."

Mani Gilyard is also retired and uses the park's fitness room and swimming pool. He tries to go to the park five days a week in the morning and has been going for the past five years.

"It's a necessity as you age to be in good health," he said. "Rather than dealing with sickness, I can deal with wellness. I'd have to fight them for my money because I pay on an annual basis for the fitness room. They are destroying the park. If the park is paying for itself, why is it being cut?"

Jane McInnery's son is a part of the Riverbank State Park Rangers hockey team. The program currently has 250 members with children from across western Manhattan. She said that the reduction in hours would have an impact on youth.

Practices for many of the sports teams occur during early morning hours that the state is trying to reduce.

"It brings the kids together across all social groups," she said. "This has grown to be one of the premier organizations and it's affordable. There is no other option except Chelsea Piers, which is very expensive."

Several elected officials are trying to use their positions to keep the park's regular hours, including State Sen. Eric Schniederman, Assemblyman Keith Wright and City Councilman Robert Jackson. The three pledged to work to prevent the cut of the programs.

"We have to push this," said Jackson. "I use this park myself and all these things are about a community coming together. The state budget is not done until it's over. People have to come together to keep Riverbank open."