With new pool opening, Barretto Point remains isolated
By Luis M. Mostacero
Photo by Luis M. Mostacero
Barretto Point Park
When Barretto Point Park opened almost two years ago, Hunts Point residents regarded the five-acre waterfront park as a sign of hope. But even before the park was completed, they, and the advocates who convinced the city to spend $7.2 million to build it, voiced concern about how people would get to the park.
On Earth Day, the teens of The Point’s A.C.T.I.O.N program unveiled a campaign to bring bus service to the park, which is seven blocks from the nearest residence and a 20-minute walk from the subway. They want the Bx6 bus, which loops along Food Center Drive, to add a new loop along Viele and Ryawa avenues to travel the seven blocks from Halleck Street to the park.
At a press conference at the park on April 19, A.C.T.I.O.N. announced the results of a survey its members conducted that shows the absence of bus service keeps people away from the park.
More than half the 460 people they interviewed had never been to Barretto Point Park. Asked why, most cited lack of time and lack of public transportation.
Ninety percent of those surveyed said that they would be more likely to visit the park if public transportation were available, and 88% said they would be willing to pay $2 if there were a public swimming pool in the park. A pool is scheduled to open there on June 27.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the park on Oct. 3, 2006, Mayor Michael Bloomberg grew visibly annoyed when a reporter asked him about the lack of public transportation.
“We’d all like better public transportation,” he responded. “You can talk to the MTA.”
The mayor went on, “I think this is a chicken and egg thing—you know–if you get more people here, then the MTA might very well be more responsive.”
At the time, Miquela Craytor of Sustainable South Bronx said advocates had been working closely with the MTA and hoped to inaugurate bus service by January, 2007.
While Congressman José Serrano says new bus service is an urgent need, however, Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo believes a time-consuming process will be necessary.
In a statement responding to questions from The Hunts Point Express, Serrano noted that “over the past few years I have directed more than $30 million toward the planning and construction of the Bronx River and South Bronx Greenways,” and said it was “essential that residents have access to the network of parks and bike paths at the water’s edge.”
The congressman complained that “Fully half of the Hunts Point industrial area has no bus service,” and said, “This situation must be changed for our community to grow and thrive.”
But Arroyo said extending the route of the Bx6 “ is going to be a process that will take a bit of time.
“My compromise,” she said, “is to get all the authorities that have the power to make the necessary changes to the table, to start the conversation and then to continue those conversations to the end.”
A spokeswoman for the MTA explained that in order to extend a bus line, the MTA’s operation planning unit has to send people to count customers and measure the cost-effectiveness of the change.
The district manager of Community Board 2 called that “ridiculous reasoning.” Saying the board has been asking for the extension for 10 years, John Robert scoffed, “My understanding of the MTA is that they operate not necessarily for money, but to serve the community.”
On a recent spring day, Lisa Carry was in the park, accompanied by her friend Rhonda, who said she was “amazed” the first time she saw the park and now visits regularly, bringing her children.
Carry, who lives near Yankee Stadium but used to work in Hunts Point, often brings her family to the park during the summer. She drives, but said it bothers her that she has to use her car. “It should be a bus that comes down Tiffany to drop you off,” she said.
A.C.T.I.O.N. recently met with MTA officials and elected officials, to urge them to change the bus route by June, to coincide with warm weather and the arrival of the pool. But, said Adam Liebowitz, A.C.T.I.O.N.’s program director, the MTA told the advocates that a big barrier to new service would be the contract with the Transport Workers Union, which is renewed annually.
“We have some people working, but there is no definite answer yet,” Liebowitz said.