South Bronx Greenway will open waterfront

The route of the South Bronx Greenway and connections to it.

A plan to build a recreational trail connecting a series of parks on the East River waterfront has gotten a major boost from the economic downturn. Federal stimulus money will be used to build the South Bronx Greenway and open it to the public within three years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in March.

The greenway will follow the waterfront in Hunts Point and Port Morris, connecting to the soon-to-be-built Randall’s Island bridge, Barretto Point Park with its floating swimming pool, a planned park near the Fulton Fish Market and Hunts Point Riverside Park. Devised by local community groups, the greenway plan was embraced by the city in 2006, when Bloomberg formally unveiled the master plan.

The plan’s proponents see the greenway not only as a way to reclaim the waterfront and make their communities more attractive, but as a way to improve the health of residents in neighborhoods where diabetes and heart disease are epidemics.

They hope the Greenway will encourage residents to walk and bicycle for exercise. “One reason people struggle with obesity in the South Bronx is the lack of opportunity to exercise safely outdoors,” argues Sustainable South Bronx, which spearheaded the planning for the trail. People in Mott Haven and Hunts Point don’t feel safe outside, said Miquela Craytor, the executive director of Sustainable South Bronx. “We want to create a safe way to be active.”

Majora Carter, Craytor’s predecessor as head of Sustainable South Bronx, played a leading role in conceiving the Greenway and pressing the city to build it. Carter obtained a $1.25 million federal transportation grant and enlisted The Point Community Development Corporation and the city’s Economic Development Corporation to join in the study that produced the trail’s design.

“In 1997, The Point came to my office requesting my support for the creation of a ‘green necklace’ around the Hunts Point and Port Morris neighborhoods, Rep. Jose Serrano recalled when the master plan was unveiled. “At the time, the concept of a ‘South Bronx Greenway’ seemed outlandish to many,” he continued, as he noted his own contribution to funding the plan.

Building the Greenway will be one of six projects citywide that will benefit from the federal stimulus program. The feds will provide a $22 million infusion of funds, nearly half the nearly $49 million needed to complete the project. “The federal stimulus dollars mean that we can move projects that would have been on the chopping block and get shovels in the ground quickly,” said the mayor.