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Economic Development Group Calls for Citi Bike, Wetlands in South Bronx

By Eddie Small | November 27, 2014 12:35pm
 A rendering of what the Harlem River waterfront could look like under SoBRO's plan.
A rendering of what the Harlem River waterfront could look like under SoBRO's plan.
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SOUTH BRONX — A barren stretch of The Bronx's Harlem River waterfront needs a walkway, Citi Bike and a bowling alley to thrive, according to a local economic development group.

SoBRO, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving quality of life in the South Bronx, recently released a study that envisions bringing about 4,000 new units of housing and 3.3 million square feet of commercial and community development to a portion of the borough's waterfront stretching from the Third Avenue Bridge to East 149th Street.

"The organization truly feels that the development of this area smartly will have a great impact on Bronx residents and continue to make The Bronx thrive," said Michael Brady, the group's director of special projects.

SoBRO's study identifies three major sites that would be good for public open spaces: a walkway along the shore, a park between East 144th and East 146th Street, and a wetland by Park Avenue.

Other projects the report suggests include a movie theater complex and bowling alley between East 146th and 149th Streets, specialty food shops around East 144th Street and residential towers at several sites throughout the district.

The plan calls for multiple improvements in public transportation as well, including Citi Bike stations in the area to help connect residents with the subway and a ferry dock toward the northern end of the district.

To accommodate the growing arts community beneath the Third Avenue Bridge, SoBRO has recommended bringing galleries, art shops and housing for artists to the area.

"I think it’s very important for that to take place," said J. "SinXero" Beltran, a Bronx-based artist, "especially if it involves people from The Bronx."

SoBRO would like new developments in this area to meet certain design standards in order to give the neighborhood a unique identity akin to Battery Park City, and it suggests accomplishing this through measures like putting in plants on all of the roofs.

The overall cost of the project would be about $6 billion, according to Brady, who stressed that the report still just represented possibilities.

"This is certainly not a development plan that is going to happen overnight," he said. "It is going to happen in phases."

The next step for SoBRO regarding its report is to establish a master planning committee, which will assess the federal, state and local support needed to implement the necessary changes in infrastructure, according to Brady. This group should be established after Thanksgiving.

The report frames the South Bronx waterfront as one of a dwindling number of areas in the city for affordable living.

"As the City of New York continues to grow, as once affordable neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn and northern Manhattan continue to ‘gentrify,’ opportunities for affordable housing, sustainable development, and mixed use development become increasingly difficult to achieve," the study reads.

It refers to renovating the waterfront between 149th Street and the Third Avenue Bridge as an opportunity to "provide important public amenities and open space to this underserved portion of the Bronx" and provide housing for people of all incomes.

Phillip Morrow, President and CEO of SoBRO, said in a statement that he hoped the study would lead to a “world class model” for accessible waterfront development.

“The development of this area is integral to SoBRO’s vision of building a better Bronx,” he said.