Last Wednesday, Mayor Eric Adams and Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez announced the 7-mile expansion of the Harlem River Greenway from Van Cortlandt Park to Randall’s Island in the Bronx.
The expansion is funded by a $7.25 million federal grant award to build more greenways, and the aim of the project is to reconnect communities historically divided by highways. The Major Deegan Expressway has cut off Bronxites’ access to the Harlem River waterfront since the 1930s.
“We are expanding the Harlem River Greenway to the Bronx. Connecting all of the disconnections that we are making is really a symbol of the past,” said Adams at the press conference. “It’s a symbol of the Robert Moses era—bridges and highways that were built, that ripped apart communities such as the Cross Bronx Expressway, the BQE, bridges like ones we’re standing on. In so many ways, not only did we disconnect the communities, but we disconnected opportunities.”
Adams said that during his time as Brooklyn Borough president, there was significant development of Brooklyn’s greenways and waterfront, which he wants to continue in the Bronx and Washington Heights. He also noted that during the COVID pandemic, families and commuters used greenways and public green spaces in a major way.
The Harlem River Greenway will be along the waterfront, with a network of walking and bike paths. The city is also launching a community engagement process to crowd-source public input on the upgrades.
The DOT is collaborating with the Bronx Center for Environmental Quality and the Harlem River Working Group. “The city’s first greenway plan that included the Harlem River Greenway was developed under Mayor David Dinkins and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer in 1993. Today, we can finally make those dreams a reality,” said Harlem River Working Group Coordinator Chauncy Young in a statement.
Rodriguez, a former Manhattan councilmember, was excited to connect Dominican and immigrant communities in Manhattan and the Bronx with the bridge. He is also eager to partner with advocates in the community to make the greenway project vision a reality.
“We want to hear from you on how you want to use your waterfronts. No one will come from the outside imposing that vision,” said Rodriguez at the press conference.
Electeds like US. Rep. Ritchie Torres, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, and U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat were instrumental in creating the RAISE grant to expand the biking and walking greenway network across the five boroughs.
“We can never go back in time to reverse the systemic harm caused by the construction of highways that divided entire communities—like the Bronx—and forever changed their trajectory, but we can be intentional about how we move forward to reconnect these communities in a way that enriches their surroundings, creates vital greenspaces, and improves the quality of life for people who live there,” said Torres in a statement. “I’m encouraged to see a plan from the city moving forward that promises to provide new and improved access to the waterfront for Bronxites for the first time in decades, while offering safe and convenient recreational and transportation opportunities.”
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.