Randall’s Island Connector opens in Port Morris

Bikers help inaugurate the Randall's Island Connector.

Bikers help inaugurate the Randall’s Island Connector.

Quarter-mile pathway links South Bronx to recreational opportunities

Biting winds and chilly temperatures weren’t enough to keep troupes of Bronx bicyclists and pedestrians from celebrating the official opening of the Randall’s Island Connector at 132nd Street between Willow and Walnut Avenue on Nov. 14.

Almost a decade after the project was announced, Randall’s Island is finally accessible to South Bronx residents via a new pathway over the Bronx Kill.

“We have been told many many times ‘no’ by the prior administration, that this was not feasible, that this could not happen,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, calling the connector a “vital pathway” the council has long pushed for.

Congressman Jose E. Serrano praised local activists for persevering through delays and tough negotiations with the Galesi Group, the development company that holds the lease on the industrially-zoned land the new pathway was built over. The city paid about $700,000 for an easement on the land, according to the New York City Economic Development Corp.

Ensuring the safety of pedestrians who use the walkway was a major factor in delaying the project’s completion, said an NYCEDC  spokesman, Ian Fried. New safety technology was introduced to control the gates of the rail crossing, in order to slow passing trains.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority,” Fried said. “The connector underwent significant testing to make sure it can safely provide access to Randall’s Island.”

The project is the final link in the South Bronx Greenway master plan initially proposed by the NYCEDC in November 2006, to increase recreational opportunities across the area. Other projects have focused on Hunts Point, including streetscape improvements, new medians and bicycle lanes and a one-acre waterfront park. The new, quarter-mile long path connects Port Morris to the 330 acres of open space and recreational attractions on Randall’s Island.

Those who attended the opening event didn’t waste a second after the ribbon was cut to walk or bike over the pathway.

“This means we don’t have to go to Manhattan to find a safe trail anymore,” said Jamila Diaz, assistant vice president of development organization at SoBRO, who attended the event, adding “I will definitely be here next weekend with my bike.”

Though city representatives and residents lauded the new pathway, others say lots more work must be done to increase recreational opportunities and upgrade safety in Mott Haven. Yajaira Saavedra, co-owner of Mexican restaurant, La Morada, said there should be more access to the waterfront and NYCHA playgrounds must be made safer for kids.

“It’s a great step, but we need more,” Saavedra said.