Environment / Parks

Bronx River Alliance plans multipurpose facility

Courtesy of the Bronx River Alliance

An illustration of the proposed Bronx River House, slated to be built at the southern end of Starlight Park near 172nd Street. The building will serve as the new headquarters for the Bronx River Alliance’s restoration work and a community center with classrooms, meeting spaces, and outdoor walkways.

Group announces new headquarters with community space

“What did the river herring say when it hit the wall?” parks manager Sarah Tobing asked a buzzing crowd of volunteers, students and local environmental advocates.

A few already knew the punch line before she answered: “Dam.”

The laughter that followed was a relief at a Bronx River meeting where, for the first time in a long time, organizers had more good news to announce than bad.

The 2015 Bronx River Assembly, held at the Hostos Community College Longwood Art Gallery on March 24, was a culmination of the Bronx River Alliance’s successes in 2014 and a kick off to its spring and summer lineup of programs and festivities. All this followed the turmoil of a February meeting on the river’s Long Term Control Plan, which raised questions over whether or not it would truly reduce sewage overflow and make Bronx waters a safe place to tread.

But just weeks later, the river that was once dubbed a forgotten waterway polluted with waste and nearly ruined by neglect was on proud display at the annual meeting. Pictures of children running along the river channel, leaves crisping into vibrant reds and oranges over the water last fall, and families armed with canoes and picnics around the area showed the river as the lush Bronx oasis the Alliance holds close to their hearts.

“As a Bronx resident who didn’t know much about the river growing up except for the view of it while driving down the parkway, I can see how far we’ve come,” said Kellie Terry, executive director of The Point and Bronx River Alliance board member. “Now I’m sharing this with my kids, and we can canoe on the river as a matter of fact. I’m not taking that for granted.”

Underneath the projected slideshow, students mingled with community reps over Morris Perk’s cookies and sandwiches; Alliance member Mike Gupta took selfies with fellow volunteers; and presenters used quips and anecdotes to engage the crowd on announcements regarding the Bronx River.

In fact, Tobing’s apt herring joke segued into a sneak peek of the river’s first fish passage, which will be a refuge for the river herring, an essential component of our food chain.

“The herring is important because it’s eaten by anything you see that would want to eat fish, really,” said Tobing, a project manager for forestry at the city’s Parks Department.. Her factsheet transitioned into photographs of the projected ladder-shaped passage, which she announced will greet the herring’s spring migration and will serve as a “pretty passage” for those walking with their canoes along the rock walls. A ribbon cutting will be held for the passage on April 10, followed by the “Hello Herring” festival at River Park, just south of the Bronx Zoo, on June 6.

The fish passage will be joined by another innovative structure in the fall. Kiss + Cathcart architect Gregory Kiss took the stage to announce that the long-awaited Bronx River House is projected to have its grand unveiling by the end of this year.

The building, which received a 2008 Design Award from the Art Commission of the City of New York, will serve as new headquarters for the Bronx River Alliance’s restoration work and a communal structure for the neighborhood filled with classrooms, meeting spaces, and outdoor walkways. Standing at 6,000 square feet at the southern end of Starlight Park near 172nd Street, the sleek structure will be lit with eco-friendly solar panels, and will collect rainwater for irrigating the dynamic system of vines entangled along its walls.

“It’s going to look like it’s been magically transported from Northern Maine down to the Bronx,” Kiss said of the boathouse’s airy structure, designed to keep it a few degrees cooler than its environment. The roof will be completed in about a week.

“People will be crossing paths and doing all kinds of stuff,” Kiss continued with pride. “This building is going to be, if I do say so myself, one of the most amazing buildings in New York City.”

But the night wasn’t all about blueprints and projections. The assembly took an emotional turn when Alliance members asked for a moment of silence to honor members Morgan Powell, a local historian, and Annette Williams, former deputy director of Sustainable South Bronx, both of whom passed away within the past year.

“This is about all of us being in it together,” said Linda Cox, Alliance executive director and Bronx River Administrator, on the group’s closeness. “It’s just been another great assembly. You come, you connect. This is not just a river but a community of people who care about it.”

As she went on to list the river’s exciting lineup of events that stretch from early April into June, the crowd buzzed with excitement. After a long winter of vague projections and negotiations, the river is finally beginning to defrost and will open to the public with a promising year ahead.

“I hope to see you on the river sometime,” said historian Stephen DeVillo, who will be leading the Bronx River Ramble at the 14th Annual Bronx River Flotilla on May 2. “No reservations. Just be there.”

Here’s a listing of spring events on the Bronx River:

April

Saturday, April 11

Morgan Powell Tree Planting Day

Bronx Park entrance on Bronx Park East & Burk Avenue / 9 a.m.

Plant trees along the riverbanks in memory of Bronx activist and historian Morgan Powell. Gloves & shovels will be provided.

Bronx River Ramble

Bronx Park entrance on Bronx Park East & Burk Avenue / 12 p.m.

Join local historians as they venture into the Bronx River Forest to find traces of the long-lost French Charley’s Island.

Wednesday, April 22

Bronx River Earth Day

Location TBA on www.bronxriver.org / 10 a.m.

Get your hands dirty and celebrate Earth Day with our Conservation Crew. Sweep the riverbanks clear of invasive plants. Gloves & shovels will be provided.

Saturday, April 25

Hunts Point Earth Day

Hunts Point Recreation Center

Sustainable South Bronx is hosting Earth Day services including projects in Hunts Point, Concrete Plant Park and Hunts Point Riverside Park. For more info visit www.ssbx.org & to register contact info@ssbx.org.

May

Saturday, May 2

(Rain date: May 3)

Amazing Bronx River Flotilla

5-mile paddle starts at Shoelace Park at 9:30 a.m., Free Public Celebration at Hunts Point Riverside Park / noon – 3 p.m. 

Kick off our paddling season & raise vital funds for our canoe program. You can either gather up a fundraising team for a full river paddle or cheer them on as they reach the finish after 12pm & enjoy an afternoon of free activities including music, live performances, rowing & much more.

To register for the 5-mile or for more info visit www.bronxriver.org/flotilla

Saturdays and Sundays

May 23 – August 30

Community Rowing

Hunts Point Riverside Park / 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Explore the river in one of the Rocking the Boat’s homemade wooden boats. For more info, visit www.rockingtheboat.org.

Sunday, May 10

Community Paddle

Concrete Plant Park / 2 p.m.

Calling all paddlers; come explore the river by Concrete Plant Park.

Saturday, May 16

Bronx River Ramble

2/5 Gunhill Road Subway Station / 10 a.m.

Explore the historic communities of Wakefield, Williamsbridge and Woodlawn on this walking tour. You’ll walk along Shoelace Park, hear tales of the old neighborhood and see a collection of pre-WWII apt. buildings.

Saturday, May 23

Upper River Run

Shoelace Park, 219th St / 10 a.m.

Canoe through the Bronx River Forest, New York Botanical Garden and Bronx Zoo.

$30 registration required via link at www.bronxriver.org/calendar.

Saturday, May 30

Community Paddle

Concrete Plant Park / 2 p.m.

Short canoe trips for beginners and families.

June

Saturday, June 6

Bronx River Festival “Hello Herring”

River Park at 180th St. & Boston Rd. / 12 p.m.

Come celebrate the Bronx River’s first Fish Passage during our annual Bronx River Festival. This day will include field games, music, free community paddles, a guided Ramble tour and live entertainment.

Drew Gardens Art Exhibit

Drew Gardens / 1 – 3 p.m.

The Bronx River Art Center invites you to take a stroll along Drew Gardens & experience Bronx ecology along with local students’ work.

Saturday, June 13

Estuary Paddle

Concrete Plant Park / 12 p.m.

Encounter saltwater marshes & wildlife that thrive in the tides as you paddle the saltwater section of the river.

$30 registration required via link at www.bronxriver.org/calendar.

Saturday, June 20

Fish Parade

Hunts Point Riverside Park / 10:30 a.m.

Join The Point for the 11th Annual Fish parade from Hunts Point Riverside Park to Barretto Point Park.

Saturday, June 27

Tree Planting Day & Community Paddle

Shoelace Park 219th St. / 9:30 a.m.

Re-forest the riverbanks. Gloves and shovels will be provided. Free canoe paddle after this volunteer project.

Sunday, June 28

Annual Soundview Park Waterfront Festival

Soundview Park / 10 a.m.

Join the Friends of Soundview for live performances, art exhibitions, workshops, fitness programs, nature and waterfront activities and more.

Bronx River Ramble

Soundview Park / 1 p.m.

Join us for the Devil’s Belt Ramble down the Bronx River Greenway’s southern connection in Soundview Park and learn about the ecology, geology and history of the river, its delta and its estuary.

 

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