Build the Greenway now!
By Yael Levy
Posted 6/10/15/Riverdale Press
This weekend I checked out the interactive Citywide Waterfront Map on the Department of City Planning’s website:
The website directs the viewer to “select a borough to view publicly accessible waterfront spaces.” I selected the Bronx. A map appeared with green areas depicting park land. Most of the water-adjacent green areas appeared in the northeastern segment of the Bronx. A few appeared in the south Bronx.
But I was interested in the northwest Bronx – my home of sixteen years. Two green slivers – depicting Riverdale Park – appeared in that region. When I placed my mouse cursor over them, a text box appeared with the words, “visual access only.”
I wondered if this were the case in other water-adjacent city parks, so I did the “mouse hover thing” over all the other Bronx waterfront parks depicted on the map. Nope. Only Riverdale Park in the Bronx holds that distinction. I did the same on the Manhattan map. No “visual access only” waterfront parks there. “What about Brooklyn?” I wondered. I checked it out. Those Brooklynites have access to the water at all their waterfront parks. Perhaps that’s why their property values are through the roof. And Queens? Same thing. Even Staten Island does not have a single “visual access only” waterfront park.
When did the Northwest Bronx become the poor stepchild? In 2011, Mayor Bloomberg launched “Vision 2020” — a 10-year, $3.3 billion plan to take back New York City’s waterfront. The plan included 130 waterfront restoration projects throughout the five boroughs, funded with $700 million from the city’s capital budget. When he announced the project, the then-mayor proclaimed, “New York City has more miles of waterfront than Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and Portland combined — but for decades, too many neighborhoods have been blocked off from it.”
Apparently, Mayor Bloomberg was not talking about my neighborhood. But now we have a new mayor and a new capital budget. And Mayor de Blasio has expressed interest in giving the outer-boroughs their fair share. When he ran for office, his wife introduced him as an “outer-borough working dad” and he vowed to be a “mayor for our neighborhoods.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/28/nyregion/bill-de-blasio-kicks-off-camp.... I hope he wasn’t just referring to his own Brooklyn neighborhood. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, what can you do to show your support for waterfront access in the Northwest Bronx – the forgotten neighborhood? Come to Riverdale Riverfest this Sunday, June 14th, at the campus of the College of Mount Saint Vincent. Fill out a postcard supporting waterfront access. Approach your elected officials — who will most certainly be at the festival — and ask what they are doing to promote access to the Hudson River in the Bronx. Ask them about Vision 2020 and whether our neighborhood is part of that vision. And if you can’t attend the festival, email or call your elected officials and fill out an electronic postcard on the Riverdale Riverfest website:www.riverdaleriverfest.org.
Riverdale Riverfest was conceived to attract attention to the lack of waterfront access in the Northwest Bronx and to advance the timetable for the construction of the Bronx link of the Hudson Valley Greenway. The festival, now in its sixth year, has built momentum for waterfront access, but progress on the issue is painfully slow. When I got involved in the Greenway movement, I had three elementary school-aged children whom I hoped would benefit from a waterfront greenway. This month, one of those kids is graduating high school and moving out of the Bronx. Will my other two also be gone before Greenway construction begins?
I call upon Community Board 8 to set forth a meaningful plan for waterfront access so that we can conclude the Greenway study phase and can commence the implementation phase. I call upon our elected leaders to help secure Greenway funding and to shepherd us through the logistical difficulties of bringing the Greenway plan to fruition. And I call upon you – my friends and neighbors – to make your voices heard.
Yael Levy is a Riverdalian and a co-founder of Riverdale Riverfest.