The Bronx has faced many negative environmental hurdles in its history, from asthma-inducing highways to waste transfer stations, and even medical waste incinerators, and while most of these almost always disproportionately plagued the South Bronx, there is one that has impacted residents in the West Bronx, whether up in Riverdale or down in Port Morris in the South Bronx: Access to the waterfront.
Residents have been cut off from direct access to the Harlem River for over a century, first by railroads and then by the construction of the Major Deegan Expressway, but finally, a 30-year-old vision for a greenway along the river is taking a big step forward to become a reality.
On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that the city will finally expand the Harlem River Greenway, which currently exists in Manhattan, to The Bronx.
“Since its inception, the Harlem River Working Group has been led by community members working improve access to the Bronx and Manhattan side of the Harlem River and develop the Harlem and Putnam River Greenways,” said Chauncy Young, coordinator, Harlem River Working Group.
Young added, “The city’s first greenway plan that included the Harlem River Greenway was developed under Mayor David Dinkins and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer in 1993. Today, we can finally make those dreams a reality, and I commend Representatives Adriano Espaillat and Ritchie Torres for their unwavering support to secure $7 million for the New York City greenway expansion, and Mayor Adams and Commissioner Rodriquez for prioritizing this environmental justice project once and for all.”
The envisioned 7-mile greenway would connect Van Cortlandt Park in Riverdale to the Randall’s Island Connector in the South Bronx’s Port Morris neighborhood in a continuous ribbon of green pedestrian and cycling paths offering millions of residents direct access to the Harlem River.
Millions of residents across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island have enjoyed significant access to their waterfronts which seamlessly and safely connects neighborhoods and communities through these greenways, however, Bronx residents currently have very limited access to the Harlem River.
Access to the waterfront along the Harlem River currently exists at Roberto Clemente State Park and Bridge Park, both of which are connected, and Mill Pond Park several miles to the south.
While there is no set date for the completion of the proposed greenway, a series of online public workshops will begin next month in order to collect community feedback and the three public workshops will be for each of the three sections of which the implementation of the greenway is being broken down into.
The planned segments as well as date of public workshop for each and registration links are as follows:
- Van Cortlandt Park to University Heights Bridge, Tuesday, April 18th, 6-8PM
Register for April 18th workshop
- University Heights Bridge to Macombs Dam Bridge, Wednesday, April 19th, 6-8PM
Register for the April 19th workshop
- Macombs Dam Bridge to Randall’s Island Connector, Wednesday, April 26th 6-8PM
Register for the April 26th workshop
These workshops are an opportunity for residents to ensure that it is their vision and plan that is implemented in creating the greenway so please make sure to attend. There will be additional opportunities in the Fall of this year to make your voices heard but these first steps are critical in helping shape these discussions.
According to the Mayor’s office, an implementation plan will be published in 2024 that will be guided by these workshops.
The plan to finally move forward with the Bronx’s Harlem River Waterfront Greenway is a result of the city receiving a $7.25 million federal grant to expand the city’s current network of greenways to historically underserved communities.
Bronx resident Karen Argenti, who grew up along the Harlem River at NYCHA’s Sedgewick Houses and then on Undercliff Avenue just north of the High Bridge, and who is a board member of the Bronx Council on Environmental Quality (BCEQ), told Welcome2TheBronx that the organization, “…has been working on cleaning the water of the Harlem River since the turn of the century,” and added that, “We are just fighting for whatever everyone else gets in the City.”
Argenti also sees this as a transformative “green” opportunity for The Bronx and said, “Our vision is that the greenway is an opportunity to create a productive green infrastructure model that captures greenhouse gases (GHG), lowers our carbon footprint, and increases habitat, to begin. In addition, alternative transportation methods of travel to and from work and recreational areas as a secondary benefit in lowering the carbon footprint, and with it the heat island effect.”
“This is a win for the Bronx, the City and the State. Moreover, it will clean the Harlem River,” added Argenti.
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