Mott Haven leaders fear they’re being left behind
By Sarah Trefethen
A number of Mott Haven community leaders are complaining that they have been left out of planning the South Bronx Greenway’s future.
At stake, they argue, is not only recreation but jobs.
“There’s a whole spectrum of economic development opportunities here, and we want to make sure this is as inclusive as it needs to be,” Arline Parks, the chair of Community Board 1’s economic development committee, said at a recent committee meeting.
A team of consultants is working with Hunts Point community groups to plan how businesses and residents can get the most out of the proposed greenway. They are developing a business plan for a new, home-grown non-profit organization that would manage the greenway, putting more effort into upkeep than city agencies would be expected to.
“It’s a difference of do you want it kept clean, or kept clean and also planted every year,” said Frank Randazzo, director of the Bronx Empowerment Zone, an arm of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation that provided $150,000 to pay the consultants.
According to Daniel Hernandez, one of those consultants, the new non-profit will most likely resemble Solar 1, the environmental education group that manages Stuyvesant Cove Park on the East River in Manhattan.
The management organization would hire other groups to run programs, organize commerce and maintain the greenway. Local residents would have priority in filling these contracts.
“There’s a lot of momentum and investment in the greenway, and implementation of this is critical,” Hernandez said. “People will see that.”
The completed plan will be presented to a steering committee assembled by Paul Lipson, Rep. Jose Serrano’s chief of staff. The committee, which includes representatives of the New York and Bronx Overall economic development corporations and several non-profits, will be in charge of turning the plan into a reality.
“It seemed to me it was more Hunts Point than Mott Haven centered,” said Parks, after a presentation at Board 1’s office.
“They talked about vendors, concerts and other activities. You’d want to make sure our community members could be vendors, and host activities, and participate in the economic development opportunities. You’d want to make sure it’s going to represent Mott Haven and Hunts Point,” she said.
Mott Haven has almost twice as many residents as Hunts Point, but Parks said Hunts Point has gained an advantage because of its activist organizations. “Mott Haven doesn’t have the kinds of organizations that Hunts Point has,” she said. “Hunts Point has been ahead of the curve in that regard.”
Harry Bubbins, the director of Friends of Brook Park, said he was glad work was being done on the greenway.
“We were leading bike tours to promote the idea 10 years ago, so we’re very pleased to see some progress on this project,” he said.
But Bubbins was disappointed that he hadn’t heard anything about plans for a new organization to run the greenway. And he was worried that a planning process that doesn’t involve the whole community might seem efficient in the short-term, but ultimately fall short of its goals. “There’s a consolidation within Hunts Point groups at the expense of larger community building,” he said.
The Port Morris Industrial Business Zone promotes economic development in the area immediately surrounding a portion of the proposed greenway. Stephane Hyacinthe, who runs the program, said he thinks the greenway sounds like a wonderful idea, but no one has contacted him about the plan.
“It’s an initiative I’d be more than willing to work on and give my expertise and knowledge,” he said, “but I don’t know who’s spearheading the project.”
Maryann Hedaa, who heads the Hunts Point Alliance for Children and is a member of the steering committee, said the perception that Mott Haven and Port Morris groups were being left out of the planning for the management of the greenway was probably correct.
But, she added, “I don’t think the right people from Hunts Point are on the committee either.”
She is less worried about the geographic makeup of the committee than she is about its collective expertise.
“The trouble is there’s no real business leadership involved,” she said. “It could be a whole lot of money going down the drain if you don’t get the right people managing it. I’m worried the people on that committee will maintain the status quo, and the status quo in the South Bronx isn’t sustainable.”
In addition to the Hunts Point Alliance for Children, the steering committee includes representatives from The Point CDC, Rocking the Boat and Sustainable South Bronx.
Randazzo also said Mott Haven and Port Morris may have been overlooked. While much of the work is already done, he said there is still time for additional input on how the greenway should be managed.
“Is there room for another opinion? I would say sure. Is it going to have the same effect as if you’d been there since day one? Probably not,” he said. “Sometimes it’s tough to remember everybody.”