The Bronx River Greenway, a series of continuous parks and trails along the Bronx River, is a vehicle of transformation for the Bronx. Starlight Park in the South Bronx is a critical link of the Greenway, serving as a central meeting point and connection to miles of trail and parkland to the north and south. Phase 1 of Starlight Park will open early next year, but Phase 2 has been de-funded because the State pulled funding from the project in 2009 when it hit a legal roadblock with Amtrak. Without this link, over 100,000 residents in adjacent neighborhoods will remain cut off from the river, the new parks along its banks, and an invaluable bike and walking trail system. Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg, we urge you to bridge this gap in the Bronx River Greenway!
As you can see from the above 2009 video, NY State was enthusiastic about this greenway link and its benefits. Today, two steps are essential to reviving this project:
· The State must recommit to funding this project.
· NYC must take over as the lead agent on the project, because they already have an agreement in place with Amtrak that solves all the legal issues.
Starlight Park in the South Bronx is a critical link of the Bronx River Greenway. It will serve as a connection and central meeting point for communities on each side of the river, and allow for an uninterrupted path from Concrete Plant Park in the south to the rest of the Greenway heading north. Built by the New York State Department of Transportation, Phase 1 of Starlight Park will open early next year as a city park, with 13 acres of open space, ballfields and playgrounds for recreational use, and a mile of waterfront access for fishing and boating.
Phase 2 involves the development of eleven more acres of state-owned land, a one-km jogging loop spanning the Bronx River, and the installation of three pedestrian bridges that connect the properties to each other and to the Greenway. Progress on Phase 2 stalled because Amtrak and NYSDOT could not reach agreement concerning indemnification and potential liability for one of the bridges—a pedestrian overpass across Amtrak’s Acela line at 172nd St and Bronx River Ave. As a result, State-appropriated funding for the entire Phase 2 project vanished in 2009, leaving all eleven acres undeveloped and none of the three bridges built.
Phase 2 is vital to the overall success of the Greenway as there are no desirable route alternatives. Without this link, over 100,000 residents in adjacent neighborhoods will remain cut off from the river and from the new parks, playgrounds, ballfields, and paths along its banks and will lack an invaluable bike and walking trail system through the heart of the Bronx. In a community deficient in open space, cut up by truck routes and beset by asthma, diabetes, obesity and other health problems that open air exercise can reduce, government action is essential to complete this healthy, green transportation link.
The development of the Bronx River Greenway is an economic driver in the Bronx and has already begun to attract private investment along its corridor. One example, the Signature Urban Properties development running parallel to the Bronx River in Crotona Park East, is planned to include 1,325 units of housing and 46,000 square feet of retail space overlooking Starlight Park. In a NY Times article (“Rezoning Clears Way for ‘Small City’ in the Bronx”, July 24, 2012), Signature Principal Gifford Miller cited “signs of the area’s potential, including… the extensive restoration work in progress on the 12-acre Starlight Park” as a reason for choosing this area for redevelopment. In contrast to this forward progress, two parcels acquired by eminent domain for the Greenway link and a stretch of undeveloped land on the east bank will sit vacant until the link is constructed, potentially blighting the surrounding area and inviting illicit activities.
This $30+ million project is virtually shovel-ready, and according to NYSDOT will create or save 780 direct, indirect and induced jobs. Once constructed, the greenway link will attract concessionaires and vendors on and near the greenway, serving the thousands of people who will bike, walk or play on the greenway.
Proceed with the project with New York City as the lead agent.
Through the Federal Urban Waters Partnership, the Department of the Interior, prompted by Congressman Serrano, has focused attention and resources on resolving this impasse and convened several conference calls with Amtrak and the State. Both sides recommend that the project be transferred to the City so that it can operate under an existing indemnity agreement between the City and Amtrak that the State does not currently have. The City’s engagement will enable Amtrak to negotiate easements over the track, and work with the State and City to review design, construction, and scheduling plans. Put simply, having the City assume project management overcomes the greatest obstacle that has stalled this project for the past few years and clears the way for work to resume to completion.
Restore full funding for the project.
While New York City is well suited to serve as the lead agent, New York State must retain its commitment to funding. The State originally promised to cover all expenses, but now says that the project will need multiple funding sources. The projected costs are $30-35 million:
• Construction of the three bridges = $17-20 million. One bridge over the Amtrak line and two over the river
• Parkland improvements = $13-15 million. This includes earthwork, trail construction, planting, lighting, etc.
We urge you to commit to the rapid resumption of this project, including restoration of full funding and a timeline for completion.