Health / Parks

Hunts Point hustles for its health

Deborah Cruz

Runners and walkers set off from Hunts Point Riverside Park on their three-mile jaunt. on Sept. 27

Runners and walkers cross the peninsula in annual event

The usual oasis-like sanctuary of Hunts Point Riverside Park was bustling one Saturday morning last month, as the place filled with a crowd ready to hustle.

The eighth annual Hunts Point Hustle took place on Sept. 27, starting in Hunts Point Riverside Park and ending three miles later in Barretto Point Park. It was an event introduced eight years ago to promote the beautification of the Bronx and the Bronx River. And this year it attracted more than a hundred runners from all over the borough and beyond.

Some of them were there for the run/walk, and others, the Bronxites, distinguishable by their musical accents, were there to support the progress of their ever-changing borough. Others were there to support family members who decided to run.

“The Hunts Point Hustle was created to highlight two beautiful parks here in the Bronx and for people to enjoy themselves,” said Michael Brotchner, the executive director of Sustainable South Bronx, the organization responsible for the run. “We named the event Hustle because we want to use the word in the best possible way. People in Bronx are hard-working, and they hustle to land jobs.”

Riverside Park was filled with runners stretching, warming up and sticking their race numbers on their shirts. The morning was warm and sunny, as if the day was custom-ordered for the outdoor event.

A Zumba class preceded the run/walk. Many of the runners joined in for the fun of it and others as a serious pre-run warm-up. Spanish music blasted from two speakers during the class. Police officers blocked off Lafayette Avenue and most of Whittier and Drake streets, so that the runners would have a smooth, traffic-free route.

The runners then took their positions at the starting line, with sprinters and kids in the front and walkers in the back. And with the “ready, set, go!” they were off.

“I love the Bronx,” exclaimed runner Valerie Martin just before the race started. Martin, a native of upstate New York who works in Morrisania for a children’s advocacy organization called Scan NY, said, “I feel like this borough has a lot of untapped potential and is also the one that receives the least love.”

Ariela Ortiz, 29, won first place among the women group in this year’s Hustle, coming in at 23 minutes and 23 seconds.

“Last year I wasn’t able to finish the run, so this year I motivated myself to do so,” said Ortiz. “I like it because it’s not competitive — it’s fun for every type of person.”
At Barretto Point Park, some runners were drenched in sweat and others were simply breathing heavily. The first person to cross the finish line was Abiyot Worku, 28, a resident of the Bronx.

Dwight Grant, a Jamaican-born Westchester resident, sat on a bench near the river, recovering. He’s run seven half-marathons, he said, and wants to complete 10 in all. Still, the Hustle provided a challenge.

“I’ve lived here most of my life, I know this place like the back of my hand,” Grant said, “but the hills here in the Bronx are hard to get by.”

Finishers got a bottle of water and a protein bar. Tables were filled with sandwiches, apples and oranges. The New York Restoration Project a non-profit organization dedicated to creating greener environments in under-resourced communities, was also at the park giving away fruit trees – apricots and figs – for residents to plant in their backyard or in a community garden.

“I came out here to support the community, ‘cause you don’t run in the hood,” said Reph Star, one of the singers for the hip-hop group Circa ’95. “This a great place for people from the Bronx to run because you have a lot of trees in an urban setting. It’s the best of both worlds.”

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