City Councilors Question the Condition of Florence Street Park

City councilors registered concerns about the physical condition of Florence Street during Director of Engineering Erik Swanson’s update on the city’s parks at Monday’s Council meeting.

During a question-and-answer period that followed Swanson’s update, Ward 3 Councilor Darren Costa asked about “a specific organization that was trying to use Florence Street Park for a baseball program, and they had mentioned that it can’t be used.”

Swanson responded, “To my knowledge, I thought there was baseball played early this summer. I’m not aware of any restrictions.”

Then came the straight-on question from Costa that certainly reverberated across the city, especially among recent visitors to the Florence Street Park.

“What’s the status of the contamination there, then?” Costa asked Swanson directly. “From what I understood, the feedback I’ve gotten was that it was too contaminated to be able to hold a program there.”

Calling it a tough question to answer, Swanson said, “The contamination that is there does not present any harm to kids who use it.”

Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Matewsky was incredulous in his tone upon the mere mention of the word “contamination.”

“Maybe it’s me, we’re talking Florence Street Park, where the tot lot was just done over – there are two parts to that park (Upper Florence and Lower Florence),” began Matewsky.

“I’ve been the councilman for that area for over 40 years. Kids have been playing at that park for 40 years. What does this contamination thing come from? That’s the first I’m hearing about it. Who said it’s contaminated?” Matewsky said to Swanson.

“I was not part of the development for the remediation nor the design of the surface of the park, so I can’t tell you how it got to be in its current state,” said Swanson.

“This is all news to me,” said Matewsky, asking Council President Michael Marchese if he knew the answer to why the park might be contaminated.

Marchese offered a plausible, scientific explanation.

“A couple of years ago, during the storm, they piled about 100 feet of dirty snow there from all over the place, and that [may have] led to the contamination,” said Marchese.

Matewsky seemed perturbed that no one had informed him about the possible contamination at the park.

“But if they’re going to dump snow there that was contaminated, that’s news to me,” said Matewsky.

Swanson told the councilor that he will do some research and determine exactly “what the extent of the contamination is.”

“And I will say that when the word “contamination” is thrown around, it doesn’t necessary mean imminent threat of life,” said Swanson.

“Well, I should hope not – imminent threat of life? It [contamination] is a scary term,” responded Matewsky. “

The Council voted unanimously to request that Swanson provide an update on Florence Street Park by the first Council meeting in December.

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