The Bronx River is a 23-mile long river that runs from the Kensico Dam in upper Westchester County through 13 Westchester municipalities and through the heart of the Bronx to the confluence of the East River and the Long Island Sound. New York City’s only freshwater river, it offers a slice of nature amid the strains of urban life.
The Bronx River went from a flourishing and beautiful resource to a contaminated conduit for industrial and residential wastes two centuries ago. In 1974, a small band of community activists formed Bronx River Restoration and began the arduous process of cleaning up and restoring the river. Their effort gained strength and numbers in 1997, when Partnerships for Parks convened the Bronx River Working Group and brought together more than 60 community organizations, public agencies and businesses committed to reclaiming the river and improving access to it throughout the Bronx.
Efforts to restore the Bronx River took a tremendous step forward in 2001 when the Bronx River Working Group created the Bronx River Alliance as a permanent 501(c)(3) organization to continue this work for the long term. Working closely with the New York City Parks Department, which provides substantial in-kind support, we are headquartered within the Parks Department’s facility on the Bronx River Parkway.
The Alliance acts as a coordinated voice for the river. We work collaboratively with public and private partners to protect, improve, and restore the Bronx River corridor and greenway so that they can be healthy ecological, recreational, educational, and economic resources for the Bronx communities through which the river flows.
Governed by a board representing the diverse communities along the river, the Alliance provides a unique structure for public sector and community representatives to interact on equal footing and pursue a common goal. It is a model for community-based waterfront development throughout the city and the nation. The Alliance works through four teams, each including representatives of the various agencies and organizations active in the program area, who debate and decide policy and programmatic direction. Each team elects two representatives to the Board of Directors. Additional directors are chosen at-large.
River clean-up and restoration efforts are driven by the Ecology Team, which includes scientists, regulatory agencies and community-based organizations. The Ecology Team’s goal is to restore the health of River through policy and planning, as well as fieldwork, using a full-time Conservation Crew and a large array of volunteers from within the community.
The Greenway Team, comprised of community-based and agency planners, designers and advocates, guides the planning and implementation of the Bronx River Greenway. The Greenway will be a continuous bike/pedestrian path and linear park along the Bronx River from the East River to Kensico Dam, including new, reclaimed parklands.
The Education Team, made up of teachers, community-based educators, and scientists, guides programs that enable educators to use the river as a classroom, educate the public about the river, and train volunteers to monitor the river’s conditions.
The Outreach Team includes community, civic, and business representatives joined together to promote the Alliance and the Bronx River and to organize events that draw people to the river, including the Amazing Bronx River Flotilla in the spring and the Golden Ball festival in the fall. The Outreach team offers numerous volunteer opportunities, like clean-up days and restoration projects. It sponsors recreational bike and canoe trips, and publishes a newsletter for the general public.
The Bronx River Alliance is committed to practicing and upholding the values of inclusion, collaboration, environmental justice, responsiveness, communication, ecological restoration, innovation, respect, integrity, and public access. The Alliance believes that its mission is best served by seeking diverse partners, communicating freely, honestly and with respect for the accomplishments of others, and working collaboratively to get things done. Our strength lies in the participation and independence of the communities along the river, which are so intimately connected to its past and—most critically—its future. The Alliance serves a diverse community in the Bronx including primarily working class, low-income and immigrant neighborhoods such as West Farms, Hunts Point, Norwood, Williamsbridge and Soundview. We work with over 40 local schools, youth and community organizations to engage residents in the development of the Bronx River Greenway and in the river’s restoration. In so doing, we develop stewards who will protect the river and open spaces for the long term.
Our list of Partners includes many prominent civic, business, cultural and community organizations. Our public sector partners include the City, State and Federal agencies charged with protecting our waterways, and those agencies involved in greenway projects including the New York City Parks Department and the New York State Department of Transportation.
For a natural and social history of the Bronx River, click here.