By MAYA MITRASINOVIC
Tucked away just behind the Seton Park tennis courts, a small cave is vandalized and covered in rubbish. But this little rock structure is more than just a cave – it’s a cave. And it’s been around longer than Spuyten Duyvil Park itself.
He spiritually guarded the Seton Hospital on the site from its construction in the late 19th century until its demolition in 1956. When the city stepped in to transform the site into what is now a park in the 1970s, the cave was allowed to stay.
But it has been a long time since the cave made room for the Virgin Mary, nor even looks presentable. Today is an afterthought. Neglected. A situation that a neighbor with a keen sense of history would love to change.
“I found the fact that the parks department unintentionally hid (the cave) behind the tennis courts to be really miserable,” said Stephanie Coggins, a community activist probably best known for her failed battle to save the century-old apartments. of Villa Rosa Bonheur. close.
In its heyday, the cave and hospital were run by the Sisters of Charity of New York, a Roman Catholic organization now based on the campus of Mount Saint Vincent College. The hospital – and later the park – was named after Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first such figure in the United States, who originally founded the Sisters of Charity.
The city has owned the land for over seven decades, keeping it primarily under the control of the Parks Department. Yet the sisters still feel a special connection not only with the site, but also with the cave. While it once contained a statue of the Virgin Mary, this particular cave was erected in memory of Mother Seton.
“The sisters have contributed so much to New York, and it is fitting that a park dedicated to Mother Seton is carefully maintained,” said church group spokeswoman Elena Miranda. “Especially the cave.
Still, it would be nearly impossible to restore the cave to its former religious glory, especially now that it sits on public land. But that’s not what the sisters are asking for anyway. Instead, they hope it can be restored as a historic monument – a small but important reminder of this little piece of Spuyten Duyvil’s history.
“It’s a historic place in New York and Bronx history, and I think it should be important not just for the sisters – because we have other ways of honoring and remembering Elizabeth. Seton – but I think it’s more important for the Residents of the Bronx to get in touch with Elizabeth Seton’s story, and who she was, and what there was in terms of the hospital, and how she served the neighborhood, ”said Sister Donna Dodge, president of the Sisters of Charity.
The first change? Move the cave from behind the tennis courts.
“Considering the fact that the park is named after Mother Seton and it was a cave for her,” Coggins said, “it should be moved and made into a focal point of the park.”
Additionally, the sisters would like to add a plaque or marker telling the story of Seton Hospital as well as Mother Seton’s influence here.
But doing all that work would require a commitment from the parks service, they said, keeping it free of trash and graffiti.
“We appreciate the importance of this site and will be dealing with the graffiti in the next few days,” said a representative from the parks department. The Riverdale press in a statement, adding that they would like anyone seeing the vandalized cave to report it to 311.
This is the first step. Moving it around and adding the historical education elements will require a bit of help from City Councilor Eric Dinowitz.
“We hope that Councilor Dinowitz will strike up a conversation with us about how we can restore the cave and protect it from vandalism in the future,” Miranda said. “It takes a conversation, and until we start to engage in this conversation, nothing will be done.”
However, they shouldn’t meet much resistance from Dinowitz, recounting The press he agrees how important it is to manage public spaces – including Seton Park Cave.
“It is crucial that we maintain and protect our open spaces and historic elements that give our neighborhood its uniqueness,” the city councilor said in a statement. “The outdoor space contributes to the dynamism and livability of our neighborhoods. As a former public school teacher, I also understand the importance of educating people about the importance and relevance of our district’s history. All of this is what makes the North Bronx so special.
And it may also shed light on some of the vibrant history that helped make Spuyten Duyvil what she is today.
“There was a reason someone left the structure there,” Dodge said. “So if you leave the structure there, why don’t you just say what the structure was and make it look good for the neighborhood?” “