The story of the Bronx River is one of a community effort to revitalize mass urban decay and reclaim the river and its waterfront. Concrete Plant Park, located in Longwood between Westchester Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard, is a primary example of this tale.
Concrete Plant Park was (as the name indicates) originally just a concrete plant. For this, silos, hoppers, and conveyors were built. It was operated by the Transit-Mix Corporation— a leading concrete industry — from 1945 until 1987. However, towards the end of its use, it was abandoned.
As a result, it became blighted over time. It was taken over by squatters, stray dogs, and filled with hazardous materials. In addition to that, ten thousand tires took up the area alone. Although it was transferred to the NYC Parks department in 2000, it was truly the work of combined community efforts, including the Bronx River Alliance, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, and countless other partners, that transformed the area into what it is today.
By advocating to politicians, holding press conferences, and gaining media attention, the people of the Bronx were triumphant. When it opened in September of 2009, the space was completely transformed. The new park included pedestrian routes and bicycle paths, chess tables, a reading circle, and a shaded seating area for people to enjoy. Through Community Friday’s and other events, the park now frequently hosts canoe programs, arts workshops, drum circles, outdoor movies, and tours of the Bronx River Foodway, an edible and medicinal learning garden.
In 2010, Emmanuel Pererra of P.S. 211 talked about how surprised he was of how much the area had changed. He said there was a lot of garbage before, but it had turned into something beautiful. Elizabeth Ramirez also commented on how clean it became and the addition of flowers. The park had tremendously evolved into a place of attraction that could be experienced by anyone who entered it.
In 2010, the park won a “Designing the parks” Merit Award out of 69 entries across 20 states and five countries. A part of what made it win this award can be attributed to the remaining structures that are reminiscent of its industrial past. The concrete plant structures are now fenced around and have been repainted. Although they are not accessible to the public, an overwhelming majority of the people who worked to build the park wanted them there as a historical artifact to signify the park’s origins and all the efforts that went into reclaiming the space .
Concrete Plant Park is proof of how a community can collaborate to make a vision come to life. The residents of the area worked hard to make it into the wonderland that it is today. It is symbolic of what the Bronx River Alliance stands for and will continue to be: urban renaissance.