Port Morris wasteland dreams of green

The industrial area at the borough’s southernmost tip is a place of trucks, factories and fumes, with little to offer humans who travel by foot or by bike, or want to sit a spell. But the proposed South Bronx Greenway could bring tree-lined paths and waterfront parks to Port Morris’ lifeless streets.

Plans for the South Bronx Greenway call for the fence at the end of 132nd Street to come down and the rotting pier to be replaced by a small park.Photo by Sarah Trefethen

South Bronx Greenway to bring access to waterfront

By Sarah Trefethen
[email protected]

It’s a sunny spring afternoon, and a handful of residents are spending time on the stoop of Jasmine Court, on the corner of 138th Street and Bruckner Boulevard. Trucks rumble on and off the expressway. Pedestrians hurry past.

Laura Barksdale, 52, says she sits outside because she likes to watch the people go by. But she acknowledges Port Morris is not the most comfortable place to hang out outdoors.

“There’s nowhere to relax and sit around,” she said. “There’s nowhere to go.”

The industrial area at the borough’s southernmost tip is a place of trucks, factories and fumes, with little to offer humans who travel by foot or by bike, or want to sit a spell. But the proposed South Bronx Greenway could bring tree-lined paths and waterfront parks to Port Morris’ lifeless streets.

Work is already underway on the Randall’s Island Connector, the first step in implementing an ambitious plan that could eventually lace much of the South Bronx with safe and attractive places to exercise and enjoy the outdoors.

Once the Randall’s Island Connector is built, the plan calls for trees to be planted along Willow and Locust Avenues and 138th Street. Cyclists will get their own lane, protected from trucks by a curb.

Right now, the streets leading to the East River shore end in barbed-wire fences. The plan calls for access to the river from 132nd and 134th streets, where small waterfront parks will be built.

Plans for the South Bronx Greenway originated in Hunts Point a dozen years ago, when Majora Carter, then a program associate at The Point Community Development Corporation, wrote a $1.25 million grant proposal to make the waterfront more accessible.

Two new waterfront parks opened in Hunts Point in 2006, but the remainder of the plan remained on paper until this spring, when Mayor Bloomberg announced that $22 million in federal stimulus money would be used to move the greenway from the drawing board to reality.

Completion of the greenway would make it possible for walkers or cyclists to take a trail from Port Morris to Hunts Point Riverside Park, and to connect there with the Bronx River Greenway, leading all the way to Westchester.

“The greenway will offer a community that has had the least amount of park space per resident, compared to the rest of the city of New York, some breathing room,” said Miquela Craytor, executive director of Sustainable South Bronx.

Jasmine Court, an assisted living facility for the formerly homeless, is a rare place in Port Morris where people actually live. But the Port Morris section of the greenway will also benefit the tens of thousands people living nearby in Mott Haven, and waterfront enthusiasts from even further afield.

Forty-year-old Ozzie Morales, a delivery driver from East Elmhurst, likes to stop his van at the fence at the end of 134th Street and enjoy the view.

“I think it would be really, really great,” he said when told about the proposed greenway. “It’s a beautiful view, and this is wasted land. It has so much potential. I could see seating here, and a promenade, like they did on the West Side in the 20’s.”

There are also thousands of people with jobs in Port Morris. Vanessa Lloyd, 18, is a clerical worker at the World Vision distribution center in Port Morris. She thinks trees and bike paths would make the neighborhood a better place to work.

“We need something like that to make it look lively. To have people be able to ride their bikes instead of walking in all this trash,” she said. “It’d be nice to have some healthiness around.”

5 thoughts on “Port Morris wasteland dreams of green

  1. Lots to work on with diverse stakeholders throughout the area. The park is a nice idea. More sensible and fair, and could be accomplished quicker, would be to compel Consolidate Edison to replace the fishing pier and park area that was destroyed in an explosion due to an accident at ConEd’s adjacent facility. They owe us that. In the early 1900’s also there was a swimming pool, a protected swimming area, directly in the river.

  2. The entire South Bronx waterfront is tied up with garbage transfer stations and truck parking, hardly the best use of prime real estate. Surely somebody is going to swoop down and snatch up some prime space and start building the glass monoliths that block the Long Island City and Williamsburg waterfronts and their spectacular City views. We should try to make it a livable community with viable transportation options such as bicycles and walking paths, in addition to park-style waterfront access, including fishing and boating piers, and also commercial options such as eateries and cafes. The South Bronx community in particular Port Morris are underserved in regards to food and drink, the only option being (the fine) Bruckner Bar and Grill. The reason probably that the Bruckner Antique and Art district has not taken off is because there are no other shopping options and nothing to eat! Opening up the piers and providing a local Farmer’s Market could bring a great influx of commercial activity that would benefit the local community and bring cohesion, getting the neighbors to know each other.

  3. Wow, I am so excited to read this excerpt. I would love to meet the writer I may email her. I would like nothing else but to see MY Pier revitalized!!!! You see I have live nearly my entire life in this area. 39 years and I spent many of time riding bike and hanging out by the pier as it became rotten. I remember when the homeless built a shack I swore he had the pent house of the south bronx. I hope that this is actulized. I also recall many of my german neighbors sharing the account of a ship that sank with many valuable and dreampt I would scuba dive down. Rumors of a Museum were just that ghost rumors. now as an adult I share the spot with my daughter but caution her that she can not freely go because times are not the same. I would like nothing else but to join any campaighn in voicing the needss of a far to overlooked area the South part of the South Bronnx!!!!!

  4. DEVELOPMENT WILL NEVER EVER OCCUR .

    EVERY SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP WANTS TO GET SOMETHING OUT OF THE CITY .

    WILL IT BE SAFETY , ECOLOGY OR SOME KIND OF ROAD BLOCK HOLDING UP PROGRESS FOR DECADES .

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