Dug-up streets will become gateway to recreation
Some of Hunts Point’s busiest streets have become obstacle courses. A patch of dirt runs down the middle of Hunts Point Avenue. A portion of each block of Lafayette Avenue from Hunts Point Avenue to Riverside Park is dug up. Heavy equipment works behind a barrier at the foot of Farragut Street near the Fulton Fish Market.
The construction marks the beginning of the South Bronx Greenway, which, when it’s finished, will open parts of the East River waterfront to recreation and provide pleasant routes to the river on eight and a half miles of newly-landscaped streets.
But progress has been slow.
Lifelong Hunts Point resident Anthony Centeno Jr. says he was 17 when he first heard about the Greenway. He is now 34.
In the late 1990s, Majora Carter, who was working at the The Point Community Development Corp., drafted an application for funds for the Greenway and Rep. Jose Serrano shepherded it to a $1.25 million federal transportation grant.
It took nine more years for the city to complete plans to build the Greenway. Three more years passed before construction began.
Now a member of Community Board 2, Centeno said, “We’re all very excited for the Greenway,” but added, “I’m kind of wondering if it’s going to happen—I know they have a plan.”
The Greenway, which is to be built in phases, isn’t scheduled for completion in the near future, but a large portion of Phase I is supposed to be completed by Fall 2011. The city agency in charge acknowledges that construction will in fact continue into next year, for at least a portion of the first phase.
“The construction is not going as fast as we’d like it to go,” said Kellie Terry-Sepulveda, executive director of The Point, a community partner of the project, along with . Sustainable South Bronx, Community Board 2 and the Hunts Point Alliance for Children.
“I would never try to predict construction schedules of any kind, but it look like those as well as Spofford Avenue are on track to finish soon,” said Carter.
The new waterfront park near the fish market, called Hunts Point Landing, is behind schedule, acknowledged Kyle Sklerov, a spokesman for the city’s Economic Development Corp., the agency overseeing the project.
Originally scheduled to be finished this year, it won’t be done until early in 2012 he said. He characterized the delay, which he said was caused by unforeseen problems building the fishing pier that will be the park’s main feature, as “routine.”
Sklerov said landscaping Hunts Point and Lafayette avenues would be complete by the end of this year.
Residents are to gain access to the new Hunts Point Landing via a bicycle lane separated from the roadway on Food Center Drive. Construction of the bike lane is scheduled to begin this year, as well, accompanied by the planting of 100 trees along the route.
The final project in Phase 1 of the Greenway is the creation of a pedestrian and cycling bridge to Randall’s Island from Port Morris, connecting the island’s playing fields and picnic areas to the Bronx for the first time. Originally scheduled to open in 2007, the bridge, is still in the design phase, according to Sklerov, who says construction is now scheduled to begin at the end of 2012.
The Point is charged with keeping the community informed about the progress of Greenway construction, but Terry-Sepulveda says it hasn’t gotten the information it needs.
“There have been bumps in the road,” she said. “We are happy with the project, but we have requested more information.”
Sklerov said his agency “has worked closely with the Hunts Point community since the initial concept for the project.” He noted that The Point and Sustainable South Bronx had hosted public events to gather ideas for the Greenway and to update residents.
“Do you know what that construction is on Hunts Point Avenue?” asked Nilka Martel, a Bronx resident who was in Hunts Point Riverside Park on a recent Saturday.
The lengthy construction period has had a negative impact on the community, Centeno said. It has been noisy and has clogged Hunts Point and Lafayette avenues, and burdened nearby streets with rerouted traffic.
For Carter, though, the glass is half full. “I see it under construction outside my office windows and on my way to and from work every day,” she said. “It’s really gratifying to see something that was so long in the making come to fruition.”