Environment

Waterfront site remains unused

© OLIN / Sahar Coston-Hardy

The Marine Transfer Station on Food Center Drive.

City plans to tear down marine transfer station

In 2005 a task force of local businesses, advocacy organizations and city agencies came together to plan the future of Hunts Point. They produced the Hunts Point Vision Plan, which, among other things, called for “developing the Hunts Point waterfront into an asset for residents and businesses alike,” and to that end finding a new purpose for the Department of Sanitation waste transfer station on the East River at the southern tip of the peninsula.

Nine years later, plans for the site are still gathering dust.  Now the city is preparing to tear the dilapidated building down.

“The Hunts Point Marine Transfer Station has been inactive since its closure and has no role in the Long Term Solid Waste Management plan,” Keith Mellis, a representative from the Department of Sanitation said. “The location is scheduled for demolition this year.”

Over the years various stakeholders have put forward plans ranging from a ferry stop to waterfront recreation to an industrial composting plant. But the city has no current plans for developing the site, which is next door to Hunts Point Landing, the most-recently built park on the South Bronx Greenway, and the New Fulton Fish Market.

“There is no funding,” said the president of the Hunts Point Economic Development Corporation, Josephine Infante. “Every time the idea comes up, people just talk about the millions and millions of dollars it would take to rehabilitate the site.”

The Vision Plan makes redeveloping the site a long-term goal, to be achieved some time between 2011 and 2025.

Year after year, Community Board 2 has called for the site to be developed as a Bronx version of the South Street Seaport. The board’s most recent budget request calls it an economic development project and says, “the views of Manhattan from the site would make it a major attraction.”

That budget request has been high on the board’s wishlist since the chairmanship of Roberto Garcia, who left the board in 2010 to head the Mosholu Preservation Corporation.

“Back when we started these ideas, all of the momentum was going with the Vision Plan,” said Garcia in an interview. “The possibilities for the site are endless.”

Since Garcia’s departure, the community board hasn’t given the transfer station much thought, District Manager Rafael Salamanca acknowledged.  It has just routinely kept Garcia’s vision in its requests to the city.

“We are in the process of reforming some of the ideas we have in the budget request,” Salamanca said at a meeting with the staff of The Express. “I have no real answer for the station as of right now.”

Neither does the Department of Sanitation. It has no further plans for the site, according to Mellis.

The Hunts Point Vision Plan proposes several potential uses: a ferry landing, waterfront recreation, new food-related businesses, stores or an industrial facility to turn organic waste from the food market into compost.

Most recently, Rebuild by Design, the taskforce charged with planning ways to safeguard coastal areas vulnerable to hurricanes, suggested that the waste transfer station be renovated “to serve as a Resilient Design and Research Center” to support green roofs and other green jobs, “and many community activities in an extraordinary setting in the river.”

“There are a lot of great plans, but the most exciting one I’ve seen is the Rebuild by Design plan,” said Angela Tovar, director of sustainable policy and research at Sustainable South Bronx, in a meeting with the staff of The Hunts Point Express. “Now, it’s just the issue of funding.”

In a revised blueprint, the hurricane planners suggest that a new pier be built on the site of the transfer station to serve as a “marine highway” that would distribute emergency supplies, serving all of the east coast. In addition, commercial fishing boats that serve the fish market would dock there. 

“It is an underutilized piece of property,” Tovar said. “It has so much potential and would be a great site for people to have access to the waterfront.”

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