Environment / Parks

Trash mars Greenway medians

Angely Mercado

A median running down the middle of Lafayette Avenue.

Local groups shoulder clean-up burden

Advocates hope that a new steward for the street medians on Hunts Point and Lafayette avenues will help them keep the lush plantings clean and vibrant.

This fall, responsibility for upkeep of the medians and the gardens recently planted on them will shift from the New York City Economic Development Corporation to the city’s Department of Parks.

The medians are part of the South Bronx Greenway project, the city’s ambitious initiative to beautify the neighborhood and create easier access to recreational opportunities along the waterfront. They were installed to add green spaces to an area that is overwhelmingly asphalt and to break up the wide avenues so pedestrians can cross more safely.

Recently, local groups Sustainable South Bronx and The Point CDC have pitched in to help the development corporation and the contractor it hired to clean up garbage that was piling up on the medians and to care for the plants. Last spring, advocates and residents observed that garbage was piling up in and around the plants, but maintenance and cleaning were sporadic.

“There was a lot of garbage. A water pump that was broken. That went on for several weeks,” said Kellie Terry-Sepulveda, executive director of the Point. Rafael Salamanca, District Manager of Community Board 2, said that trash would sometimes pile up for days without cleanup.

In addition, trees were not being trimmed regularly and plants were being neglected.

“We expect a higher level of responsiveness so that we can maintain the beauty of the community,” Terry-Sepulveda said.

Hunts Point Landing to reopen in October

Hunts Point Landing, the one-acre park tucked in between the Fulton Fish Market on Food Center Drive and the East River, has been closed since Superstorm Sandy belted the city and the South Bronx coastline last October.

An entire year will have passed before the park reopens, according to a spokesman for the city’s Economic Development Corporation, the park’s developer.

Sandy battered the park, causing “damage to the pier decking, railings and furniture, as well as landscape damage,” wrote the spokesman, Ian Fried, in an email to The Express.

The long delay in beginning repairs was caused by the need “to determine the extent of the damage and a source for funding,” Fried continued, adding that repairs will begin in mid-September and the park should be ready to reopen in October. Repairs should be completed by November.

“For a storm of this magnitude this is a complicated process, and relatively speaking, it has made progress quickly,” he added.

A spokesman for the Economic Development Corporation, Ian Fried, said his agency is “transitioning the maintenance responsibility to the Parks Department. We anticipate this transition will be completed this fall.”

But the local groups will continue to play a major role in the upkeep of the area, regardless of which city agency is involved. Sustainable South Bronx has placed trashcans along the periphery and organized weekly cleaning groups comprised of staff and workers from its green collar job-training program, the BEST Academy. Area students have also pitched in.

“PS 811x and other schools come on a weekly basis to volunteer,” said Angela Tovar, of Sustainable South Bronx.  The agency has also assigned a full time Greenway steward to work alongside local volunteers to maintain the medians.

Tovar says she is confident the transition between agencies won’t translate into a lull in the city’s attention, because the local groups will help fill any void.

The parks department says it will rely on its own staff rather than the contractor the Economic Development Corporation had hired, who advocates say was not doing his job.

“We organize frequent stewardship activities to involve local communities in the maintenance of their parks and public spaces,” said Zachary Feder, a parks department spokesman.

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