BRONX RIVER ALLIANCE
One Bronx River Parkway
This plan represents years of collaboration by the Alliance and its partners, including the principle implementing agencies of the greenway: NYC Parks (Bronx Borough, Planning and Capital Divisions) and New York State Department of Transportation. This document is indebted to the crucial and substantial expertise both agencies provided during this planning process.
The development of this plan was guided by the Bronx River Greenway Team, who formally and informally gave input on its content. Especially helpful was the input of Colleen Alderson, John Bachman, Linda Cox, Resa Dimino, Rich Gans, Russ LeCount, James Mituzas, Gail Nathan, Roger Weld, and Dart Westphal. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe's comments were extremely useful at the Parks review, as were those of Bronx Borough Commissioner Hector Aponte, First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh, and Deputy Commissioner Amy Freitag. This plan was also reviewed through a series of community meetings and discussions. We thank the hosts of these meetings: Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, the Bronx River Art Center, and Community Board 12.
The following pages of the greenway plan outline the considerable progress Alliance partners have made in realizing the vision of a continuous Bronx River Greenway, as well as the unmet challenges and obstacles that lie ahead. Progress to date is made possible by the dedication of Alliance partners and by the myriad federal, state, and local organizations that have generously funded our work. For a list of Alliance partners and funders, go to www.bronxriver.org/whoWeArePartners.cfm.
This plan would not have been possible without Greenway Program support from the Altman Foundation, The J.M. Kaplan Fund, Merck Family Fund, The New York Community Trust, and Sarah K. de Coizart Article TENTH Perpetual Charitable Trust.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
BRONX RIVER GREENWAY HISTORY AND CONTEXT
As you read this plan, the Bronx River Greenway is already taking shape. The greenway is not only an eight-mile-long bike/pedestrian path, but a new linear park in the heart of the Bronx, providing access to the river itself, and bringing green space to communities that have long lacked it. The greenway is a collective response to many decades of abuse and neglect of the Bronx River, and of the communities that line its banks. The Bronx River Alliance, founded in 2001 to work in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) to plan and implement the greenway, is both the heir to the 27 years of restoration work begun by the Bronx River Restoration Project in 1974, and the legacy of a new generation of Bronx activists, dedicated to restoring and protecting the Bronx River as the heart of a living ecosystem, and a vital community.
Beginning in 1639 with the purchase by Jonas Bronck of land along what the Mohegan Indians called Aquehung, the river of the High Bluffs, the Bronx River was settled, farmed, and industrialized. Its valley became a corridor for roads, railroads, and highways that connected a sprawling region, but isolated the watershed's communities from each other and from the river itself. The construction of the Bronx River Parkway in the 1920s established the Bronx River Reservation as a decorative landscaped border for the enjoyment of pleasure drivers in Westchester County. The creation of Bronx Park in 1888, as well as the establishment of the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo, ensured some protection for the river, though the Zoo and the Garden now restrict most access to paying visitors. South of the Garden and the Zoo, the river was polluted and abused, and its banks were bulkheaded and largely barricaded by industrial uses. The channel itself was repeatedly altered, most recently in the mid-1960s when Robert Moses shifted the river to make way for the Sheridan Expressway. Reconstruction of the Bronx River Parkway during the same period left sections of the river, such as Muskrat Cove near the border with Westchester County, inaccessible and abandoned.
The construction of the highway system—including the Sheridan, Cross-Bronx, Bruckner, and Major Deegan Expressways—physically fragmented the Bronx and helped to usher in the decades of abandonment and disinvestment that made the South Bronx an icon of urban decline in the 1970s and 80s. Residents who stayed behind, however, were determined to rebuild their neighborhoods—and to reclaim the Bronx River. In 1974, Bronx River Restoration Project was incorporated, with Ruth Anderberg as its first director. Bronx River Restoration mobilized to remove tons of debris from the shoreline in the 180th Street/West Farms area. Drew Gardens, planted just south of East Tremont Avenue by Phipps Community Development Corporation in 1995, marked the Bronx River as an asset to be restored and cherished.
Still, young people born and raised within yards of the Bronx River grew up without being able to see or touch it. In the mid-1990s, Jenny Hoffner, then a project coordinator for Partnerships for Parks, reached out to a new generation of local activists who embraced the reclamation of the river as an element of a broad struggle for environmental justice. In 1997, these grassroots organizations joined with Partnerships for Parks and other units of NYC Parks, the National Parks Service Rivers and Trails program, and the Appalachian Mountain Club to convene the Bronx River Working Group. As an informal, unincorporated coalition, the Working Group was able to tap the strengths of supporters within and outside of government and worked with NYC Parks to draft the Bronx River Action Plan in 1999. First among the plan's five Core Goals was the creation of the Bronx River Greenway. 1
The Bronx River Action Plan delineated a vision for the greenway that identified sites to be acquired, developed, and linked to existing parkland to create a continuous route. The plan proposed capital projects and matched these with diverse sources of funding, including the New York State Environmental Bond Act, and federal transportation funds,2 among others. The greenway was conceived from its inception not only as a pedestrian and bicycle route, but as a linear park that would serve a population long deprived of green open space and waterfront access. The Bronx River Working Group's ad hoc nature and its creative coordination of resources were keys to its success in launching this audacious project.
The Bronx River Working Group grew to include over 60 community organizations, government agencies, businesses, and institutions. Members' complementary strengths moved the greenway forward. Agencies mobilized in-kind resources to support clean-ups and channeled small grants to community projects. Elected officials committed city, state, and federal funding that now totals over $120 million to Bronx River greenway and river restoration projects, many of which were identified by the Working Group. 3 Activism by local organizations, notably Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, Sustainable South Bronx, and Mosholu Preservation Corporation, won important victories, including the addition of the Concrete Plant site to the greenway.
As the greenway gathered momentum, the Working Group recognized the need to formalize and staff its work. The dozens of individual capital projects that will realize the greenway are being implemented by different agencies—principally NYC Parks and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT)—and require the cooperation of many others. The Working Group incorporated as the Bronx River Alliance in 2001, with a mission "to serve as a coordinated voice for the river and work in harmonious partnership 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 communities through which the river flows." 4
THE BRONX RIVER ALLIANCE AND THE GREENWAY
The Alliance's organizational structure and governance build upon the Working Group's success in actively involving a diverse base of stakeholders in defining and carrying out its mission. The Alliance's organizational and individual partners belong to one or more teams, each of which is responsible for an aspect of the Alliance program. The team structure integrates the involvement of Alliance partners with the day-to-day work of the professional staff. This structure also ensures that values of representation and inclusion are carried into the implementation of our programs. The teams bring together community residents and organizations, educators, scientists, and other professionals, and representatives of the city, state, and federal government agencies.
The Ecology Team defines the principles that guide the Alliance's restoration work. It also serves as a forum to discuss, evaluate, and prioritize environmental studies and on-theground projects, including those carried out by the Alliance's Bronx River Conservation Crew.5
The Education Team helps schools and community organizations take advantage of the Bronx River as a rich learning laboratory. The Education Team trains community volunteers as water quality monitors and engages the public in a variety of outdoor educational programs, such as workshops, educational fairs, canoe trips, and student symposia.
The Greenway Team works collaboratively to identify and prioritize greenway projects. The team also serves as a standing community and technical advisory committee and a forum for dialogue about the design and implementation of the greenway.
Each team elects two co-leaders who also serve on the Bronx River Alliance board, giving members an important voice in leading the Alliance and shaping its short- and long-term goals.
In addition to the Ecology, Education, and Greenway Teams, the Alliance's Outreach Program sponsors events and activities to draw people to the Bronx River and to the parks and greenway along its length. The Outreach Program works to develop a broad-based constituency along the river and hosts two annual signature events: the spring Flotilla and the Golden Ball in the fall.
The Alliance staff is headed by an Executive Director who also serves as Parks' Bronx River Administrator. Like other public-private partnerships, the Alliance operates as a not-for-profit organization, but also receives significant in-kind support from NYC Parks. The Alliance staff includes coordinators for each of the four major program areas (Ecology, Education, Greenway, and Outreach), as well as the Bronx River Conservation Crew, a full-time workforce dedicated to maintaining and monitoring the river corridor, and carrying out restoration projects in conjunction with Parks staff.
The greenway coordinator is the Alliance's principal liaison to the public agencies implementing the many capital projects that are creating the Bronx River Greenway. The $120 million in public funding commitments that the Alliance and its partners have secured since 1999 is allocated to these agencies—chiefly NYC Parks and NYSDOT—and budgeted to the individual projects.
No less significant than the funding commitments are the commitments by the implementing agencies to prioritize the greenway's design and construction, and to work collaboratively to move the greenway forward in a way that reflects the unified vision of a uniquely diverse body of stakeholders. The challenges to realizing the greenway include the realities of limited agency staffing, competing priorities, and genuine differences among public agency standards, protocols, and cultures. The Bronx River Alliance embodies its members' determination to overcome those challenges by facilitating, coordinating, problem solving, and spurring its partners into action.
INTENT OF THE BRONX RIVER GREENWAY PLAN
This plan affirms the collective vision for the Bronx River Greenway and provides a framework to guide its realization. Chapter Two describes the elements of the greenway that are already moving forward and identifies issues that remain to be resolved. Chapter Three discusses guidelines for the incorporation of ecological principles into the greenway's design, construction, and operation (design guidelines to ensure the Bronx River Greenway has a consistent look and feel along its length are included in Appendix I6). Chapter Four describes the Alliance's vision for the greenway's ongoing maintenance and operations. Chapter Five explores ways that new programming can expand the greenway's base of users, enhance their experience, and catalyze revitalization in communities along the river.
The following chapters of the Greenway Plan will:
The Bronx River Greenway will transform the lower Bronx River, as well as the communities along its banks. The greenway must therefore embody the Alliance's principles of ecological restoration, environmental justice, inclusion, community ownership, and stewardship. This plan affirms the Bronx River Alliance's commitment both to the restoration of the river, and to the emergence of a vibrant, sustainable, and beautiful watershed that welcomes visitors and offers opportunity to residents.
GREENWAY ROUTE FROM SOUTH TO NORTH
The Bronx River Alliance coordinates and tracks the implementation of the New York City portion of the Bronx River Greenway—a continuous bike and pedestrian path that will extend into Westchester County to run the full 23-mile length of the river. The greenway will open up new green space in neighborhoods which now lack it and enhance existing parks. In addition, the greenway will connect neighborhoods currently separated by highways, railroads, and other barriers and provide Bronxites greater access to the borough's many cultural and recreational amenities. The Bronx River Greenway will also be part of the East Coast Greenway—a 3,000 mile-long path that will run from Maine to Florida.1
The Greenway Team—planners, designers, and advocates from the community and government—guides the planning and implementation of the Bronx River Greenway. Our collaborative approach ensures that Bronx residents come to the table with designers and agency representatives in discussing design concepts and implementation priorities for the greenway.
In this chapter, we travel what will be the complete route in the Bronx—from the river's mouth at the East River to the border with Westchester County. Some sections of the greenway— particularly in the north—already exist and require only modest path improvements or the realignment of problem intersections. However, in the South Bronx the greenway is carving out new parkland along the river, creating acres of new green space and access to the waterfront for communities that have long been cut off from the river's banks.
Most of the Bronx River greenway will travel through parkland. However, there are a few segments, especially in the short-term, that will be on-street. Whenever possible, on-street paths will be Class One facilites, meaning that the bike lane is physically separated from motor vehicle traffic. 2
In the following description, the greenway is divided into five segments, according to varying characteristics of the greenway and the different agencies involved in its design and construction. For each segment of the greenway, we describe the route that users will travel, as well as its relevant history and future plans. Connections to other greenways and on-street routes are also identified, to relate the Bronx River Greenway to the City's larger network of bicycle and pedestrian paths, and as a reference for users who may at times prefer on-street routes for security or better connection to their destinations.
BRONX RIVER AND GREENWAY ROUTE (WHEN COMPLETE)
SEGMENT A - EAST RIVER TO BRUCKNER BOULEVARD
The southernmost segment of the Bronx River Greenway will include on-street dedicated pathways on both sides of the river to Bruckner Boulevard. One segment of the greenway will run along the east side of the river from Soundview Park; the other originates on the west side of the river at Hunts Point Riverside Park.
East Side of the River - Soundview Park to Bruckner Boulevard
An alternative route would be made possible by the redevelopment of the Loral site, a vacant industrial property bounded by the river, Story Avenue, Colgate Avenue, and Lafayette Avenue. Rezoning of this site for residential or commercial use would subject future development to the provisions of New York City's Waterfront Zoning regulations, requiring continuous public access along the river. A waterfront pathway along the Loral site would connect Bronx River Avenue directly to the new greenway path in Soundview Park.
The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) has additional improvements planned for Soundview Park—including lagoon restoration, the creation of active and passive recreational spaces, and an amphitheater. These are among the many Bronx park projects funded under the mitigation agreement established as a condition for the construction of the Croton Filtration Plant in Van Cortlandt Park.
Soundview Park is a former landfill and was closed in the 1960's. Capital projects in the park are encountering delays due to the history of land use on the site. Currently, delays in the park involve difficulty obtaining the necessary permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to proceed with construction.
Connections to Other Greenways and On-Street Routes
At the southeastern corner of Soundview Park, the Bronx River Greenway will connect to the Ferry Point Park Greenway, an eight-mile greenway now being developed along the East River waterfront. The Ferry Point Park Greenway will eventually connect to the Hutchinson River Greenway, which via the Pelham Greenway will bring users back to the Bronx River, in a 10- mile loop. The Hutchinson River and Ferry Point Park greenways are currently in development.
An on-street alternative to the greenway for cyclists traveling from the southeast on Leland Avenue to Bronx River Avenue is:
West Side of the River - Hunts Point Riverside Park to Bruckner Boulevard
From Lafayette Avenue, the greenway will proceed north along Edgewater Road. The design of this permanent facility, as well as the configuration of the greenway on the Bruckner Boulevard drawbridge and the crossing of Bruckner Boulevard, will be determined as part of the Bruckner- Sheridan Environmental Impact Study, now being carried out by New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). Under any of the alternatives being studied—ranging from the construction of a major highway interchange at Bruckner Boulevard and Edgewater Road, to the elimination of the Sheridan and the creation of an elevated interchange at Leggett Avenue— the Bruckner Expressway through lanes will be removed from their current street level. Elevation of the express lanes would allow for major bicycle and pedestrian improvements both along and across Bruckner Boulevard. A Draft EIS is expected in late-2006, and construction is slated to begin in 2011/2012. 4 In the meantime, Congressman Serrano has allocated TEA-21 funds to NYC Parks to develop an interim route for this crucial segment of the greenway.
Until the Bruckner Sheridan interchange is resolved, the nearest point at which it is physically possible to cross Bruckner Boulevard is at its intersection with Bronx River Avenue, on the east side of the river. From Edgewater Road, bikers and pedestrians must travel east to Bronx River Avenue and there cross underneath the Bruckner Expressway. As noted above, cyclists and pedestrians should be aware that this intersection is extremely dangerous and that they should proceed with caution or use the pedestrian bridge over the elevated Bruckner Expressway at Elder Street. From the north Bruckner Service Road, users can double-back over the north side of the drawbridge to reach the Concrete Plant Park (see page 2.6), which is under construction until 2007. Upon the eventual realignment of the Bruckner-Sheridan intersection (scheduled for 2015), this crossing will be much easier; users will be able to cross directly underneath the newly-elevated Bruckner at Edgewater Road to enter the Concrete Plant.
Connections to Other Greenways and On-Street Routes
SEGMENT B - BRUCKNER BOULEVARD TO EAST TREMONT AVENUE
The Concrete Plant Park
The Concrete Plant Park has been used as a public park since 2000, when control of the site was transferred to NYC Parks. During this time, a temporary, bark-mulched pathway was constructed by volunteers to lead down the steep slope from Bruckner Boulevard, to connect to an extensive, concrete-paved area and the mapped, but unimproved section of Edgewater Road that exits the site to the north at Westchester Avenue. The Concrete Plant was also used to house a native plant nursery used by Parks Natural Resources Group (NRG) to provide plant stock for ecological restoration throughout the Bronx. In addition, the Alliance and its partners used boats stored in containers on the site for events and activities.
Construction of the Concrete Plant Park will be implemented over several phases. Beginning in the summer of 2005, the first phase began with selective demolition of several structures. Some of the steel structures surviving as remnants of the former concrete batching operation will be stabilized and retained as sculptural elements of the site. In future phases, they may be used to support wind turbines and solar panels to provide energy for park buildings and lighting, funded through the mitigation of the Croton water filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park.
Following demolition, the next phase of the Concrete Plant Park's development will create a number of improvements, including a continuous greenway, a waterfront promenade, new plantings, small boat access, space for cookouts and outdoor performances, an improved connection to Bruckner Boulevard, and additional restoration of shoreline vegetation.
However, design for the area of the park west of Edgewater Road cannot be completed until the Bruckner-Sheridan EIS is finished in 2007, since all of the alternatives under consideration for the Bruckner-Sheridan Interchange would have important impacts on this site. In addition, full build-out of the Concrete Plant Park cannot take place until the reconstruction of the Bruckner- Sheridan Interchange is completed (projected 2015), since a portion of the site is proposed to be used for construction access and staging.
Adjacent to the Concrete Plant Park is a vacant railroad station designed in 1910-11 by the legendary architect Cass Gilbert for the New York, New Haven & Hartford Rail Road. The station stands directly west of the site's exit at Westchester Avenue above what are now Amtrak's North East Corridor tracks. Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice conducted a building assessment and lead a community visioning process for the structure in 2005. YMPJ is now studying the feasibility of restoring the station building for a use that would serve as a community gateway to the Concrete Plant Park.
Westchester Avenue to East Tremont Avenue
Westchester Avenue At-Grade Crossing
PDJ Simone Impound and Apex Auto sites
The pathway will cross the river on a new, prefabricated steel truss bridge to access the parcel currently occupied by Apex Auto, an auto salvage operation. This site is over 600 feet long, but has only two, widely separated 20-foot segments of street frontage. The remainder of the site is a long sliver of land bounded by Amtrak to the west, and a row of attached residential buildings to the east on Bronx River Avenue.
The greenway will exit the north end of the Apex Auto site at East 172nd Street, turn west onto a new bridge above the Amtrak line, and descend via several switchbacks to near river level. Here the pathway will branch, offering users two options. One is to continue along the east bank of the river, on now-undeveloped land owned by NYC Parks. The other is to cross a third new bridge and enter Starlight Park on the west bank. The two paths re-connect over a fourth new bridge north of Starlight Park to form a one-kilometer loop along the river.
An agreement negotiated in 2001 between NYSDOT and NYC Parks permitted the utilization of Starlight Park as a staging area for the reconstruction of the Sheridan Expressway by NYSDOT. This agreement also provided for the installation of an upgraded stormwater collection and treatment system for runoff from the Sheridan underneath the park. In exchange, NYSDOT committed funds for a major reconstruction and upgrade of the park, and assigned its landscape architects to work closely with local residents on the redesign.
When the construction of the drainage system began in 2003, high levels of contamination were found in the excavated soil, and it was discovered that the site formerly housed a manufactured gas plant, operated by a predecessor company to Con Edison. Work was halted while Con Edison negotiated a cleanup agreement with DEC. A Remedial Action Work Plan was approved in 2004, and remedial work, including removal and safe disposal of the contaminated soil, will be carried out in 2006/07. Completion of the remedial work will allow the reconstruction of Starlight Park to move forward in 2007, with completion projected in 2009.
The reconstructed park will include a continuous pathway along the river (the river was completely fenced off in the former park configuration). A comfort station and boat storage building will also be constructed in latter phases by NYC Parks, with funding provided by Congressman Serrano. Funds from the mitigation funds from the Croton Filtration Plant will enable Parks to expand on the boat storage building, to provide space for community events and environmental programming, and for the headquarters of the Bronx River Alliance itself—all at the south end of Starlight Park. The Rebuild / Renew NY Transportation Bond which passed in November 2005 will fund a floating dock to enable small boat users to launch and cross the 172nd Street weir even at low tide.
Starlight Park to East Tremont Avenue
North of the Cross-Bronx Expressway, NYSDOT plans to reconfigure the intersection of E. 177th Street, Devoe Avenue, and E. Tremont Avenue, at the entrance to the MTA bus depot. The new design significantly greens the street, improves safety, and calms traffic at what is currently a confusing and hazardous location. In addition, the parcel of land bounded by those streets will be converted from an illegal parking lot into a park and a natural, vegetated slope down to the river will be restored. On the opposite bank of the river at this location is Drew Gardens, a 2-acre botanical and vegetable garden was developed in 1995 by the Phipps Community Development Corporation.
The greenway will cross E. Tremont Avenue at a signalized mid-block crossing, bringing users to Bronx Street.
Connections to Other Greenways and On-Street Routes
The on-street detour for cyclists, pedestrians, and rollerbladers traveling from the Concrete Plant Park at Westchester Avenue and who wish to connect to E. Tremont Avenue is the following:
At the intersection of Bronx Street and E. Tremont Avenue is the Bronx River Arts Center (BRAC), a multiarts organization dedicated to providing art and environmental programming for residents of the Bronx. Improvements at BRAC—including a terraced patio leading down to the river—will create an enhanced public outdoor space along this section of the greenway.
Beyond BRAC, the greenway continues north on the west bank of the river and utilizes the streetbed of Bronx Street, which is now closed to motorized vehicle traffic. Bronx Street is just one block long and terminates at E. 179th Street. From there, the greenway will continue north along a narrow strip of parkland behind the Lambert Houses to 180th Street. An agreement with Phipps Housing, Inc., the nonprofit owner and manager of the Lambert Houses, would allow for a wider, straighter path alignment and better access into and out of this greenway segment via bicycle. This agreement would also provide improved lighting and security.
In 2007, NYC Parks will begin construction on a capital prjoect that will open up sight lines and improve safety along this greenway segment. New features will include a butterfly garden, a canoe put-in, lighting, game tables, and bike racks.
At E. 180th Street, the path emerges directly opposite from River Park. River Park's rock outcroppings overlook the 20-foot high waterfall where the river exits the Bronx Zoo. Parks received $900,000 from the Croton mitigation funds to make improvements to River Park, including reconstructing the playground, comfort station, and picnic area located adjacent to the greenway. Construction is scheduled to begin late summer/early fall 2006.
East 180th Street to Bronx Park East
This route will bring the path onto Ranaqua. The complex serves as the Borough Headquarters for Parks and houses administrative, operations, program offices, maintenance and repair shops, and facilities for vehicle storage and maintenance.
Traffic exiting and entering the northbound Bronx River Parkway from Ranaqua's driveways and parking lots has been a hazard to pedestrians and cyclists. A path alignment can be developed that will minimize conflicts, but it may be desirable to curtail use of the driveways by through traffic. New signage and barricades installed in late spring of 2005 have already dramatically reduced unauthorized traffic through the Ranaqua property and improved safety in the complex.
Whether the greenway path should run in front of or behind Ranaqua remains to be determined. Trade-offs include maximinzing the greenway's visibility, minimizing conflicts with vehicular traffic, maintaining necesary parking spaces, and minimizing impact on landscaped areas.
The most likely route for the greenway will exit Ranaqua to the north along the NYC Parks employee parking lot. From there, the greenway will enter a forested section of Bronx Park East, and connect with existing park paths, which will be improved and marked as part of the greenway path.
Proposed Bronx River Parkway Viaduct Spur Path
Connection to Bronx Zoo River Walk / Pelham Parkway Intersection
Continuing north on the greenway, users must cross Pelham Parkway, which will be realigned by the NYSDOT "Zoo Access" project mentioned above. Currently, pedestrians and cyclists are directed by signs to travel to the east side of the intersection. From here, they must then backtrack on the north sidewalk of Pelham Parkway, and re-enter the greenway after crossing the access ramp between Bronx Park East and the northbound Bronx River Parkway.
Connections to Other Greenways and On-Street Routes
The on-street detour for cyclists, pedestrians, and rollerbladers traveling from E. Tremont Avenue and who wish to connect to Pelham Parkway is the following:
SEGMENT D - PELHAM PARKWAY TO EAST 211TH STREET
Allerton Avenue / Kazimiroff Boulevard Intersection
At Allerton Avenue, the greenway encounters another problematic ramp crossing. Currently, non-motorized users have difficulty crossing this intersection because of the high volume of traffic traveling at high speeds and making turns onto and off of the Bronx River Parkway. This conflict could be mitigated by improving sight lines, and by adding a lengthened "pedestrians-only" phase to the traffic signal here. NYSDOT has plans to realign this intersection as a part of improvements to the Bronx River Parkway. These plans have a 2007 start date and could include adding a new traffic signal at the intersection of Allerton and Bronx Park East, with a dedicated phase for pedestrians, cyclists, and rollerbladers. This proposal also involves three additional traffic signals—each with a phase dedicated to non-motorized travelers. Two would be located at the on- and offramps on the east side of the Bronx River Parkway and Kazimiroff Boulevard. The other would be located west of the Parkway (also on Kazimiroff Boulevard). All of these improvements—
which include widening the shared sidewalk and path on the north side of Kazimiroff—would enhance the connection of the Bronx River Greenway to the Mosholu-Pelham Greenway, as well as allowing Bronx River Greenway users to continue north/south. As of mid-2006, proposals and designs are still being evaluated for this intersection.
Bronx Park East
Spur Loop Path
The section of the greenway path that runs along Kazimiroff Boulevard, the ballfields, and playground will be repaved and striped in 2006/07.
Bronx River Forest
Main Greenway Path, Burke Avenue to Gun Hill Road
Connections to Other Greenways and On-Street Routes
Cyclists, rollerbladers, and pedestrians will likely feel fairly safe on this segment of the greenway, due to its close proximity to street activity. However, in the case that they do not or need to travel to a destination not directly along the greenway, we recommend that they travel on Bronx Park East—a wide and sparsely-traveled road—even though it is not listed as a recommended route on the NYC Cycling Map.
SEGMENT E - EAST 211TH STREET TO THE CITY LINE
North of Gun Hill Road, a new entrance at 211th Street will identify both the greenway and Shoelace Park—the narrow strip of parkland that runs from 211th Street to 228th Street. The improved multi-use path will follow the existing upper-level asphalt path along the old Bronx River Parkway. The narrower existing pedestrian path near the river level allows access to the river and canoe put-in at 219th Street. Another improved entrance at 219th Street will reinforce the identity of the park and its connections to surrounding neighborhoods. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently studying ways to minimize stormwater run-off in this badly eroded park and plans to implement a demonstration project here. Their findings will be incorporated into the final design for the improvements to Shoelace Park.
From 226th to 233rd Street, the divided roadway of Bronx Boulevard is now used by cyclists, joggers, and walkers and could accommodate the greenway path. However, the ramp access to the north bound Bronx River Parkway is a major hazard here, as is the at-grade crossing of East 233rd Street, where there is no crosswalk, and where the existing traffic signal provides no phase during which pedestrians or cyclists can safely cross.
For safety reasons, the proposed permanent greenway route will instead:
This alignment would eliminate several significant hazards, and bring users to the Webster Avenue on-street greenway that will ultimately connect to the Westchester County (on-street) bike route. Developed this way, the greenway will also provide access on the west bank of the river to the unique area known as Muskrat Cove.
A NYC Parks capital project will begin construction in late 2006/early 2007. Once complete, the greenway will enter Muskrat Cove through a new entry plaza and seating area that will draw attention to this gateway at the Metro North Woodlawn Station. The greenway here will be an 8- foot wide path on the west bank of the river, and will terminate about 6/10 of a mile in at a scenic pedestrian bridge, where Westchester County's on-river path will eventually connect to ours. Crossing this bridge, users will be able to follow an earthen path on the eastern bank of the river. Depending on NYSDOT's alteration of the Bronx River Parkway, a path will lead back up onto Bullard Avenue and the Bronx River Parkway, enabling users to loop back to the west bank of the river on a trail that would be slightly under a mile in length and enhanced with interpretive signage.
On-Street Connection to Westchester County
Connections to Other Greenways and On-street Routes
The on-street detour for cyclists, pedestrians, and rollerbladers traveling through this area is Webster Avenue for those who are west of the river and Bronx Boulevard for those east of the river.
CHAPTER 3: GUIDELINES FOR ECOLOGICAL PERFORMANCE: DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, AND MANAGEMENT
The ecological performance guidelines presented in this chapter are a vision for the design, construction, and maintenance of the Bronx River Greenway that will restore the river as the heart of a living ecosystem. In their totality, these practices operationalize one of the Bronx River Alliance's fundamental principles—that the creation of the Bronx River Greenway positively contribute to the health of the Bronx River. At a minimum this means avoiding negative impacts where possible and minimizing them when unavoidable. But beyond mere impact avoidance, decades of community activism and community participation in the revitalization of the Bronx River have led to a vision of the Bronx River Greenway that is both an ecological restoration project and a recreational amenity. The Alliance and the public agencies that are implementing the greenway—principally New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and New York State Department of Transportation—are working to ensure that the millions of dollars invested in creating the greenway will also advance the river's recovery. This chapter outlines the principles that will guide this work.
These principles build upon the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation's evolving body of knowledge and practice, especially the work of the Natural Resources Group (NRG), which has been a long-standing and active member of our the Bronx River Alliance's Ecology Team. Yet, the integration of the greenway and its central ecological asset—the Bronx River— requires a framework that embraces both ecological and recreational values. By articulating a set of principles based on those values, the Bronx River Greenway can be a new model of park development, accommodating both active use and ecological restoration.
Putting those principles into practices will reveal some inherent challenges, some of which are examined in this chapter and the next. How do we provide vegetated landscapes while maintaining open sight lines for security? How do we strike the right balance between recreational uses and ecological restoration of the river? These questions cannot be answered out of context; they require site-specific consideration. This chapter is the first step toward establishing a framework within which such competing values can be evaluated and reconciled.
Finally, these practices should not remain rigid over time, but rather require continuous reflection, evaluation, and modification to incorporate new knowledge and experience into future decisions.The following ecological performance guidelines were developed by Mathews-Nielsen Landscape Architects, and draw upon the expertise of the Bronx River Alliance Greenway and Ecology Teams, as well as Mathews Nielsen's own depth of experience. These practices are broken out into the following categories: landscape, stormwater management, hardscape, streetscape, and sustainable maintenance practices, although there is significant overlap among these areas (e.g., vegetated landscapes promote stormwater capture).
Landscape Best Management Practices
ACKNOWLEDGE SOIL AS A LIVING SYSTEM; PERFORM SOIL ANALYSIS AND ASSESSMENT
DEVELOPMENT OF SITE PROTECTION PLANS TO PROTECT SENSITIVE AREAS
STRENGTHEN NATURAL SITE PATTERNS
ENHANCE NATIVE HABITAT AND GENETIC DIVERSITY
MAXIMIZE BENEFITS FROM TREES
II. STORMWATER MANAGEMENT
Stormwater Best Management Practices
RESPECT NATURAL DRAINAGE PATTERNS AND USE STORMWATER AS AN ASSET AND NOT AS A WASTE
DESIGN SITES TO MAINTAIN OR RESTORE BENEFICIAL DRAINAGE PATTERNS
USE INFRILTRATION AND FILTRATION PRACTICES
USE DETENTION AND RETENTION PRACTICES
Hardscape Best Management Practices
CREATE HIERARCHY OF PATHWAYS FROM RIVER TO UPLAND AREAS BASED ON ECOSYSTEM AND PROGRAM NEEDS
MINIMIZE PAVED AREAS TO REDUCE RUN-OFF AND MITIGATE URBAN HEAT ISLAND EFFECT
SELECT PATHWAY ALIGNMENTS AND PAVEMENT MATERIALS WITH AN UNDERSTANDING OF BOTH USER SAFETY AND CONSTRUCTION IMPACTS
Streetscape Best Management Practices
SELECT LIGHTING STANDARDS FOR LONG TERM ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFIT AND SAFETY
SELECT MATERIALS TO REDUCE HEAT ISLAND EFFECT
DESIGN ROADWAYS AND PARKING LOTS TO FACILITATE ON-SITE STORMWATER MANAGEMENT
V. SUSTAINABLE MAINTENANCE
Greenway Maintenance Best Management Practices
USING BIO-INTENSIVE INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT (B-IPM)
UNDERSTAND THE LIFE CYCLES OF MATERIALS PRIOR TO SELECTION
IMPLEMENT RECYCLING AND COMPOSTING PROGRAMS
SCHEDULE MAINTENANCE PROGRAM TO RESPOND TO SITE SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS
The realization of the Bronx River Greenway is a magnificent achievement, made possible by years of creative collaboration among Bronx River Alliance's partners, especially the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. The completion of each successive greenway segment creates a new asset that will yield ecological, social, and economic benefits for years to come. These assets also require mindful stewardship and a commitment of resources going forward if they are to continue to enrich the river, its watershed, and the communities along its banks.
This section of the Greenway Plan outlines the specific tasks that maintaining the greenway will entail, identifies the staffing and resources needed to accomplish them, and highlights the special challenges of carrying forward the vision for operating the greenway that has emerged from years of community-based planning and consensus building. Finally, this chapter explores strategies for funding this work and ensuring that the unparalleled accomplishment that the greenway represents will not only endure, but will become more beautiful, sustainable, and alive with each passing year.
STRUCTURE, STAFFING, & SCOPE OF ROUTINE MAINTENANCE
Structure and Staffing
Staffing Levels and Supervisory Structure
Scope of Routine Maintenance
Daily greenway maintenance tasks will be carried out by district-based staff. This arrangement would deploy small crews to travel the length of the pathway each day in gator-type vehicles with trash cans, brooms, etc. A crew of four workers and a working supervisor could cover up to eight miles of path by starting at the north and south ends, and meeting mid-way.
Broken glass on paths will require extra attention because it poses a special danger to children on the greenway. In addition, for cyclists, glass can be a greater problem on pathways than it is on streets, where it is normally crushed by vehicles and swept up by mechanical sweepers.
Winter greenway maintenance will also require special attention. Developing practices for keeping paths free of ice, without using chemicals in ways that are ecologically damaging, will be a challenge. Alternatives to salt—such as potassium chloride—should be used on pathways. Major pathways, especially segments that are sloping, shaded, or located on bridges, will all need to be kept cleared and their drainage carefully maintained.
Routine Maintenance Tasks:
Responsibilities of the Bronx River Conservation Crew
With adequate training and equipment, the Crew may also have a role to play in maintaining upland restoration and stormwater management features, such as vegetated swales, infiltration basins, and green streets.
The Crew will continue to work with NYC Parks' Natural Resources Group (NRG) in the planning and execution of new restoration projects and ongoing maintenance of natural areas. Alliance staff, including the Crew, will also have an important role in implementing the Guildelines for Ecological Performance outlined in Chapter Three, particularly those addressing soil and stormwater management, pest management, and control of invasive species. The Crew, NRG, and district staff should all work to ensure that the best practices are applied in all greenway maintenance work, not only in restoration projects.
It will be important for the Alliance to map, monitor, and update the areas for which district staff, the Crew, and NRG are responsible, as greenway development progresses and as additional restoration projects are completed.
Equipment and Space Needs
Routine maintenance will require a number of gator-type vehicles to allow maintenance staff to traverse the entire path system for daily cleaning and observation. Gators can be fitted with snowplows and are normally capable of clearing snowfall of less than eight inches. Path clearing after a major snowfall will require a combination of pickup trucks, mechanical snow blowers, and hand shoveling.
SAFETY AND SECURITY ON THE GREENWAY
The greenway's function as a transportation resource that will be open to year-round, 24/7 use for walking, running, and cycling, and the very nature of its design as an off-street path create challenges in maximizing safety for greenway users and its neighbors alike.
A body of research on "Crime Prevention through Environmental Design" supports the common sense observation that streets, parks, and other public spaces are safest when they are wellused. Active, legitimate uses discourage negative ones. In addition, direct sight lines from streets, residences, and businesses along the Bronx River Greenway, provide "eyes on the path" that will deter illegal activity.
Like other NYC parks, the greenway will be "closed" from dusk to dawn to activities other than travel along the pathways. This provides a basis for the New York City Police Department and Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) to challenge people who loiter or congregate in parks, and gives them the power to arrest people who refuse to leave. However, the discretion this policy requires of officers is open to misunderstanding and, at times, to abuse. Several of the Alliance's member organizations testify that police have unfairly targeted young people and adults of color for activities—sitting on a bench, smoking a cigarette, walking in a group—that arguably would not provoke a similar response in white and affluent communities.
The Alliance will promote communication between greenway users and NYPD and PEP and support efforts by community organizations to fight discrimination and profiling, while encouraging enforcement practices that make the Bronx River Greenway a welcoming and safe environment for all.
There are some portions of the greenway that will be relatively isolated from residential or other night-time uses that provide natural observation. Security cameras may be helpful in some locations and circumstances, but there are significant limitations on their application. Use of security cameras monitored by NYC Parks is generally limited to areas that are off-limits to the public (e.g. maintenance yards or city pools at night), and thus where there are no real privacy or civil liberty concerns.
The only example of cameras being used to monitor public park space in New York City is in Manhattan's Washington Square Park, where officers in an unmarked NYPD van parked near the park monitor the cameras and respond to illicit activity. The cameras were installed, after much public discussion, in response to a widely-recognized and severe problem of drug dealing in that park, and their use remains controversial.
Parks does not have the resources to maintain and monitor security cameras in public areas and does not have policies in place that would govern their widespread use. Some Parks properties, including Ranaqua, do have cameras and monitors in place to monitor vehicle storage lots and other facilities. In these locations, the placement of additional cameras on adjacent portions of the greenway may be possible. In any case, the use of cameras for greenway monitoring requires active involvement by NYPD and assurances from them that they would be able to respond to any crimes caught on tape.
Other entities able and willing to monitor the cameras (i.e. property owners and public agencies whose properties adjoin the greenway) could be identified, such as Phipps Houses along the West Farms segment of the greenway, Hunts Point Market at Hunts Point Riverside Park, and Parks cameras for the future segment of the greenway that will run adjacent to Ranaqua. The Alliance would first need to work with Parks to clarify what responsibilities monitoring would entail for such owners. Agreements would need to address liability, as well as responsibility for camera maintenance.
Users of any park must ultimately decide whether to enter spaces which may be isolated or lightly used. The greenway's signage system will enhance user safety and comfort by clearly indicating both the greenway route, and on-street alternatives, entry and decision points.
CARRYING THE VISION FORWARD
The greenway represents a new kind of park, in which harmonizing ecological, recreational, and social values will require new approaches to design, maintenance, and management. The Alliance has developed statements of principles addressing:
As the greenway comes into being, the Alliance will need to work closely with NYC Parks to operationalize those principles, recognizing that achieving consistency in practice involves more than simply writing and then following a set of rules. There are situations in which design for maximum recreational use may need to be reconciled with design for stormwater capture (e.g., should open areas be graded flat to allow play, or contoured to detain stormwater?). There can even be conflict among priorities within the framework of our ecological principles; the question of using herbicides to control invasive plants is an example.
Decisions about the structure and supervision of maintenance and operations also bear on the Alliance's emphasis on inclusion and maximizing opportunity. These decisions will continue to be important to the Alliance in providing living-wage jobs and professional development opportunities for Bronxites. For example, the ways that the Bronx River Conservation Crew works with NYC Parks district and borough level staff can open points of entry for local residents into a range of NYC Parks and conservation career opportunities.
From the Alliance's emphasis on inclusion, collaboration, environmental justice, responsiveness, communication, ecological restoration, it follows that:- Greenway maintenance and operations decisionmaking is accountable to the Bronx River Administrator; - The Alliance learns from and builds on its experience over time; - Design, construction, and maintenance planning are integrated, allowing for integration with Alliance goals and objectives.
The Alliance's sustainable maintenance practices are included in Chapter Three (3.6).
Ensuring that maintenance of the greenway is adequately funded will be a long-term challenge for New York City and the Alliance. Citywide, total acreage of parkland increases year-by-year, even as maintenance budgets have declined. Establishing a Bronx River Greenway district would allow the Alliance and Parks to benchmark maintenance of the greenway to citywide standards, such as those included in the Mayor's Management Report. 1 At the same time, the Alliance can use its status as a public-private partnership, as well as the profile that it has created for the Bronx River, to secure additional resources.
Maintenance of many parks in New York City is partially funded by dedicated maintenance endowments. These may have been established from donations and bequests, as well as through settlements or other agreements with private entities. While few philanthropies are willing to fund ongoing maintenance and operation for any organization, some donors are willing to capitalize endowments whose future income helps to underwrite these costs.
The establishment of an endowment would enable the Bronx River Alliance to maintain a high quality resource and to protect the investment that has gone into the design and construction of the greenway, and support NYC Parks and the Alliance in the implementation of innovative maintenance practices that the greenway will demand. A critical issue is identifying potential sources of funding: identifying maintenance endowments as an aspect of project capital budget planning, as well as potential settlements negotiated by the New York State Attorney General or regulatory agencies with river polluters are possibilities. The experience of other partnerships in assuring that their endowments supplement basic maintenance budgets, rather than supplanting them, will be valuable.
To date, most public-private partnerships have been formed in locations where affluent user constituencies can be recruited, or where added real estate value created by parks can be captured. Because the Bronx River Greenway will serve the diverse low-and moderateincome communities through which the river flows, the Bronx River Alliance itself must be a new model for collaboration between communities and Parks. Advocacy for adequate public funding for park maintenance, and against the institutionalization of a two-tiered park system, will continue to be a priority for the Alliance.
CHAPTER FIVE: PROGRAMMING AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
The Bronx River Greenway is much more than just a bike path. It is:
While each of the many actors involved in planning and realizing the greenway might prioritize some of its aspects over others, the Bronx River Alliance views them holistically and provides a forum in which it is possible to understand the trade-offs and synergies among them.
This chapter surveys a range of ways that the Alliance can maximize the greenway's recreational and economic benefits to watershed residents. We also recognize that the increase in land values that the greenway is likely to engender has some negative implications for some residents, and this chapter lays out principles for actions by the Alliance to minimize or mitigate those impacts. Finally, we explore ways that the Alliance might influence, plan, or take part in future development within the watershed, beyond the projects encompassed in the construction of the eight-mile route described in this document.
Specifically, this chapter examines:
Concessions and the greenway: identification of opportunities for businesses that will support both greenway / blueway use, and local entrepreneurship and employment
CONCESSIONS TO SUPPORT GREENWAY AND BLUEWAY USE
To take full advantage of the opportunities the greenway creates for outdoor activity—for fun, fitness, and for the enjoyment of the natural environment—watershed residents will want access to equipment such as bikes, in-line skates, canoes, and kayaks. They will also need access to information and programming that encourages trying out new activities, at little or no cost and in settings that feel comfortable and safe.
People's experience of the greenway and the river will also be enhanced by amenities along and near by the greenway. There is enormous potential for food of every type and in every kind of setting—from vendor carts to sit-down restaurants—to contribute to usership and enjoyment, and to create economic opportunity.
The potential benefits of concessions on the greenway offering food, equipment rental, and other activities or services appear obvious, but defining optimal roles for the Alliance in their establishment and operation has required some analysis. The Alliance has been assisted in thinking these issues through by a team from the Robert J. Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy, who summarized their findings in a paper presented to the Alliance in March 2005. 1
The Milano School Team was initially asked to explore whether the Alliance should acquire the necessary licenses and either operate food and/or canoeing concessions on its own, or sublicense operations to either individual concessionaires or a master sublicensee. We also asked the team to examine the potential of the Alliance's canoeing program as a revenuegenerating activity for the Alliance.
The team's research included an analysis of NYC Parks regulations and policies governing concessions, interviews with the staff of NYC Parks concessions division, with administrators of other parks in which concessions operate, and with operators of nonprofit boating programs in and near New York City, as well as a tour of the Bronx River Greenway.
The report evaluated concession options against criteria that included: compatibility with Alliance mission and values; implementation timeframe and demands; and monetary costs, financial risk, and feasibility. Judged against these criteria, and taking into account NYC Parks requirements and policies for the awarding of concessions licenses, the team strongly recommended that the Alliance not seek to license, sublicense, or operate concessions itself. Rather, the report concluded that the Alliance is well-positioned to attract and support private entrepreneurs to develop the types of concessions we hope to encourage. Ways in which the Alliance might do this are described below.
The team also recommended that the Alliance continue operating its canoeing program on a nonprofit basis, noting that this would be consistent with our mission as advocates and educators.
Similar free- and low-cost programs offered by the Downtown Boathouse and by the Hackensack Riverkeeper have not only introduced thousands of people to their respective rivers; the Downtown Boathouse has also helped to create a market in which for-profit entities now operate successfully. The report went on to make recommendations on how the Alliance could expand its canoeing program at minimal cost and risk, and on how we might market the greenway to a variety of potential concessionaires.
The Milano report concluded that there is little potential for the Alliance to earn income from either food or boating concessions. Rather, the report suggests that our efforts to encourage the development of concessions should be guided by our desire to expand the numbers of greenway users, enhance their experience of the river and greenway, and ensure that the greenway economically benefits local residents and businesses.
The Milano team confirmed that some kinds of concessions will be harder to attract than others. While many existing local food businesses already have the capital and expertise to operate successful food concessions on the greenway, establishing sports equipment rentals will be a greater challenge. There are few commercial or noncommercial operations anywhere in New York City that offer bicycle, skate, or small boat rentals or instruction. The 2006 New York City Cycling Map lists only six bike shops in all of the Bronx, one of which is located near the river. 2 No Bronx shop rents bicycles or in-line skates. Conversations with the team identified the relatively large capital requirement for an equipment rental business, along with an untested market, as barriers to the establishment of equipment rentals (either as concessions on the greenway, or as freestanding businesses on private land nearby).
The Milano School report's scope did not include a market study of the river corridor, and it is unclear whether and what kinds of additional research might be most helpful. Each kind of concession has its own economics, and individual entrepreneurs are often skillful in assessing their prospects for success. The report noted that NYC Parks offers a special 30-day license that allows concessionaires to set up temporary operations to test the market in untried locations.
Parks and the Alliance could encourage entrepreneurs to develop greenway-related concessions by:
ALLIANCE PROGRAMMING TO SUPPORT GREENWAY / BLUEWAY USEThe Alliance can help to encourage greenway-related activity by supporting:
The Alliance can encourage these activities by:
These kinds of support will require some Alliance staff time, but fall well within our mission and capacity. The Alliance staff can (and does) serve as a one-stop resource for organizations wishing to sponsor greenway and river events, by sharing practical information about venues, logistics, permitting requirements, and calendar coordination. Identifying and reaching out to organizations who might want to sponsor new recreational and cultural events along the river would require a relatively modest effort that could bring a substantial return in usership.
The Alliance is especially well-placed to help members of the watershed's low- and moderateincome communities—especially young people—take full advantage of the greenway and the river for recreation. Barriers to their participation include lack of equipment—boats, bikes, etc.— and also lack of exposure from childhood onward to activities that children raised in more affluent communities take for granted, like swimming lessons, canoeing at summer camp, etc. By thoughtful deployment of programs, resources, and outreach, the Alliance can do much to help users to overcome those barriers. Though New York's coastline encompasses over 800 miles of waterfront, few of those miles offer safe boating to novices. Because the relatively calm waters of the Bronx River offers a safe place for beginning boaters, the Alliance will take care that its programming gives priority to users with the least prior experience on the water. Merely providing facilities, like boat storage and launches, is likely to attract those who are already comfortable with their use - i.e., people fortunate enough to have had prior experience with boating. As the Alliance moves to broaden access to the river, it will continue to develop programming, as well as facilities, that target people who actually live within the watershed's communities.
We might further extend our support of recreational activities by helping groups or clubs to develop facilities along the greenway. The Alliance has helped the non-profit organization Rocking the Boat secure the use of storage and launch facilities on parkland on the greenway. The Alliance will continue to identify sites along the river for additional storage and launch facilities (especially as new segments of the greenway are completed), and facilitate agreements between NYC Parks and other organizations whose focus might be recreational and/or educational. In the absence of a well-understood market for commercial canoe and kayak rental concessions, a nonprofit club model could expand recreational boating on the river and build on the interest stimulated by the Alliance's own programs.
Supporting the development of canoe clubs will require the establishment of Alliance guidelines and policies concerning what kinds of groups could participate and the resolution of issues of liability and insurance, NYC Parks policies about use of space, etc. Other organizations have resolved similar issues: the Inwood Canoe Club uses space at the Dyckman Street Marina, a Parks concession. The Sebago Canoe Club offers public kayaking in Jamaica Bay from a club facility that it operates as a concession. The Alliance could adapt these precedents to expand public access to the river at little or no direct cost to itself.
While there are a few precedents for noncommercial small boating concessions in New York, there do not appear to be any local models for cooperatives or clubs making bikes or skates available. This practice is not uncommon in Europe, in neighborhoods where (as is the case in the Bronx) many young residents cannot afford to buy their own bikes and lack safe space to store them. The Alliance could help interested community organizations experiment with bike co-ops, which could both help young people to get access to equipment, and organize riding events, provide maintenance and repair instruction, etc. Recycle a Bicycle now operates excellent youth programs from its shops in Brooklyn and Manhattan; discussions with them might explore whether the greenway could be a venue for new programming involving Recycle a Bicycle or other organizations.
THE GREENWAY AS A CATALYST FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
There is no doubt that the greenway has the potential to stimulate economic development in the neighborhoods alongside the Bronx River. Demand for many goods and services will grow as people discover the river and the greenway. The Alliance can take steps to help locallyowned businesses take advantage of this new demand, to the benefit of greenway users and local entrepreneurs alike. This does not mean that the Alliance needs to directly provide businesses with access to capital, training, and technical assistance, but rather that we strengthen our existing relationships with entities whose missions are in this area, such as the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, the Bronx Tourism Council, and the Bronx Council on the Arts. The Alliance's goal would be to help these cultural and economic development institutions connect to markets within the local community that they might not otherwise reach.
As the greenway moves forward, the Alliance should initiate discussions with these and other actors in the arena of economic development, including public agencies such as the NYC Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Small Business Services. A first step would be to brief the staff of each agency on the greenway, and on the kinds of economic development we believe it can encourage. Then we could invite them to present to the Alliance the range of incentives and assistance they now offer. Informal discussions at this level are likely to suggest possibilities for collaborative work to encourage the development and growth of local enterprises.
Concurrently, the Alliance will need to articulate a relationship between its own values and the ways in which it responds to development initiated by others in the watershed. While there is a very broad range of enterprises that the Alliance would welcome, there may be some which we would not support or which we might even oppose.
Current statements on our values and principles suggest that we would favor:
Alliance principles also suggest that we would oppose:
The existence of the greenway will in itself catalyze many kinds of economic development that will not require any specific action by the Alliance. In these cases, there is no reason or opportunity to apply any test of consistency with the Alliance values. However, developers of some kinds of projects may seek more active help from the Alliance. Their projects may request information and advice from the Alliance, or need public approvals, subsidies, community, and political support, or all of these. In such cases, the tests for consistency with Alliance values should be commensurate with the level of support required. The chart below lays out a range of prototypical greenway-related development projects, the level of support each may seek from the Alliance, and the corresponding threshold tests to which they should be subjected before the Alliance takes actions or positions.
Public agencies will also continue to initiate development and infrastructure projects that impact the river and the watershed. While the Alliance may not choose to weigh in on every public sector project, we will certainly need to maintain lines of communication with agencies (including Alliance partners and others) whose projects might affect the river or the greenway. In these instances, we would apply the same tests that we would to private sector projects in assessing whether to take actions or positions on specific projects.
PLANNING PRINCIPLES FOR GREENWAY-RELATED ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
(arranged from "lowest to highest" standard for receiving the endorsement or active support of the Bronx River Alliance)
THE GREENWAY AND THE REVITALIZATION OF WATERSHED COMMUNITIES
The opening of the greenway will sooner or later affect land values in the watershed's neighborhoods. This generally benefits local property owners, but it will also lead to increases in both residential and commercial rents. Most watershed residents, and most owners of small businesses, are tenants rather than property owners. What can the Bronx River Alliance do to help ensure that the greenway helps rather than harms these local stakeholders?
The real estate market in the Bronx is dynamic. The population and market collapses that ravaged the South Bronx from the 1970s into the 90s have given way to a robust private market in most neighborhoods, including the watershed. The area's resurgence is welcome—but it also creates challenges:
In a highly competitive housing market, Bronx River watershed residents face major disadvantages.
Housing costs are rising much more quickly than household incomes. This means that many watershed residents bear unsustainably high rents, and also face either displacement (being forced to relocate away from the neighborhood to seek housing in more affordable, but less desirable locations), or declining housing standards, especially more overcrowding, as families double up, and extended families share small apartments.
POTENTIAL ROLES FOR THE BRONX RIVER ALLIANCE
The Alliance's status as a public-private partnership means that it can have unique opportunities to influence decisionmaking on land use. In this way, the Alliance can help to ensure that the people who have worked to reclaim the river and build the greenway can enjoy the fruits of their efforts, rather than being displaced as a result of them.
The wave of abandonment that swept the South Bronx in the 1970s and 1980s made New York City the inadvertent owner of thousands of acres of land and buildings. City ownership of land allowed nonprofit housing developers to build and rehabilitate tens of thousands of apartment units in the Bronx. The city's commitment to direct capital funding of housing and its large stock of property taken in rem 8 meant that land prices could be set to ensure the affordability of the completed housing units. More importantly control of development sites could be maintained during the time required to engage local stakeholders in planning, assemble project financing, and obtain regulatory approvals. In today's market, most land and building sales are transactions between private sellers and buyers. Under current law, all new housing built in the Bronx is entitled to real estate tax abatements. The only regulatory mechanisms governing development in most cases are zoning and building code regulations, neither of which ordinarily restricts the price of housing units. Most private development in the Bronx are built as-of-right (i.e., in conformance with existing zoning and thus with no requirement for public review) precisely because developers want to move quickly and minimize risk. In fact, many developers will forego a higher return on a project (e.g., from additional density) to avoid the potential for delay and uncertainty that a public review process often entails.
The only situations in which communities have the opportunity to participate in land use decisionmaking are those in which land is publicly owned, or in which a developer's need for zoning changes or public subsidy triggers ULURP review. 9 And today, there are few opportunities for community organizations themselves to acquire and develop land for any purpose, primarily because of the difficulty in gaining control of sites in a speculative environment.
Therefore, absent intervention, most vacant or underutilized parcels are likely to be developed for market-rate housing and commercial uses, rather than for either affordable housing or green open space. The Alliance might therefore seek ways that it can encourage new development that benefits both local residents and the river itself. Though the plan of the basic greenway route is now defined, there remain additional opportunities to increase the amount of green space along the river, and to develop underutilized land in ways that are consistent with the Alliance's values. The Alliance could work with its community organization members to identify sites within the watershed which have the potential to contribute to the restoration of the river, to the future expansion of the greenway, and to the creation of affordable housing.
Appropriate roles for the Alliance include:
Taking positions on development projects, advocating for appropriate development within the watershed, or becoming directly involved in such development, all represent significant commitments of Alliance staff resources, political capital, and credibility. Any potential involvement by the Alliance would be subject to tests along lines similar to those suggested in the chart on page 5.8. That is, the higher the Alliance's stake in a given project and the greater its commitment of resources, the higher the threshold that project would have to pass for consistency with the Alliance's principles and values.
As the Bronx River Greenway is implemented—a public investment now totaling over $120 million—the Alliance will give careful consideration to how the greenway shapes overall development in the watershed. The Alliance will also continue to bring disparate audiences— public agencies, regional non-profits, and community-based organizations—to the same table to share information, collaborate, and reach decisions.
The goal of this report is to develop a palette of standard design elements that will help establish a distinct identify for the Bronx River Greenway. The greenway is located within multiple jurisdictions - within NYC parklands, on New York State lands administered by the NYSDOT, within the NY Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo (Wildlife Conservation Society), and on City streets and rights-of-ways.
The challenges of developing a consistent palette of standard design elements along the length of the greenway include:
We received valuable assistance from the staff of Parks and the NYSDOT in the identification of the design elements that are currently proposed at City and State parks.
Design ApproachTen key elements were identified and prioritized. They are:
The priority system is used to define those elements, for which:
The design elements selected are from the NYC Parks or NYCDOT standards, unless otherwise directed by NYC Parks staff. In two instances, a second tier choice may be warranted. For railings, a simple pipe rail may best reflect the environment and scale of the pathway location. For lighting and benches, there may be instances where the Riverside fixture and 1939 World's Fair bench are in use and a brief interruption of this palette with the proposed 'Candela' Park fixture and 1964 World's Fair bench would be inappropriate. In this case the Tier 2 pairing (Riverside/1939 WFB) should replace the Tier 1 pairing (Candela Park/1964 WFB). In each case the lighting and bench pairing is key.
Site appropriate native planting
Tier 2 Lighting
TIER 2 RAILING
Tier 2 Bench
The Bronx River Greenway is located within multiple jurisdictions - within NYC parklands, on New York State lands administered by the NYSDOT, within the NY Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo (Wildlife Conservation Society), and on City streets and rights-of-ways. The ability to integrate public or private art into the greenway will depend on site ownership and determination of responsibility for artwork. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to: selection, installation and maintenance. For the purpose of this report, we are defining works of art as all forms of visual art that are accessible to the public. We have not included the performing arts.
This report recommends a guidelines framework based on:
The Bronx River Greenway provides an opportunity for public corridor planning that can simultaneously address environmental, design and artistic endeavors. The Bronx River Alliance is in place to provide the leadership required for this pioneering approach, which will benefit the City of New York, the local neighborhoods and the riverine communities. The framework for each opportunity should remain flexible, but the ecological and recreational benefits will become a new, permanent legacy for all New Yorkers.