Pact will let city build bridge to Randall’s Island

This satellite image supplied by the city's Economic Develpment Corporation shows the location of the Randall's Island Connector in relation to FreshDirect's site.

South Bronx Greenway will cross rail yard

The city has reached an agreement with the private operator of the Harlem River Yards in Port Morris that will allow the long-stalled bridge from the Bronx to the playing fields of Randall’s Island to be built.

But the project, one of the jewels in the crown of the South Bronx Greenway, is still years away from completion.

Six years ago, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans for the greenway–a network of landscaped roads and pathways designed to lead bicyclists and pedestrians to and along the East River–the bridge across the Bronx Kill was to be among the first projects finished.

Called the Randall’s Island Connector, the bridge would permit residents to walk or bike a quarter of a mile to the island, with its 60 public fields for a variety of sports. To reach it now, Bronxites have to walk or drive via the Triboro Bridge or travel to 125th Street in Manhattan to catch a bus.

The City Planning Commission approved the project in 2008, and it was originally supposed to be done by 2010. As recently as last fall, the city’s Economic Development Corporation was saying on its Website that it would be built by the end of 2011.

Now, according to a spokesman for the EDC, ground won’t be broken until 2013, and no completion date has been set.

The project was nearly torpedoed at least twice.

Gaining access to the land where a greenway path will lead from East 132nd Street near Willow Avenue and run under a railroad trestle to the new bridge presented city officials with a problem.

Owned by the state, the land is part of the rail yard leased to Harlem River Yards Ventures, which in turn leases it to the New York Post, Waste Management, FedEx and FreshDirect.

In January, the Daily News reported that the firm was balking over the city’s plans to use a 50-foot-wide strip of land on the rail yard property.

Now, though, the real estate firm has agreed to an easement, according to officials of the city’s Economic Development Corporation and Hudson River Yards Ventures. Terms of the agreement were not announced.

Last February, the counsel to Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. expressed concern that the connector might never be built because of “design and safety issues.”

Those issues have been resolved, said Diaz’s spokesman. Debris was falling from the trestle tracks, he explained, but netting has been rigged to deal with the problem, he said.

FreshDirect will also occupy the lot where the greenway path will be built, and critics of the plan to bring the on-line grocer to the Harlem River Yards have expressed concern that the FreshDirect deal would interfere with plans for the greenway and bridge. Spokesmen for the Economic Development Corporation and the borough president heatedly denied that the two plans were interwined.

FreshDirect and the greenway will be on separate portions of the same lot, said the development corporation spokesman.