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Bette Midler Nonprofit Unveils Plan to Build South Bronx Waterfront Parks

By Eddie Small | July 8, 2015 2:20pm
 The NYRP plans to build two new waterfront parks in the South Bronx.
New waterfront parks in Port Morris
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PORT MORRIS — A nonprofit founded by Bette Midler wants to build two new waterfront parks in the South Bronx.

The New York Restoration Project, started by the "Beaches" movie star, recently released a plan called the Haven Project that aims to help better connect residents of Mott Haven and Port Morris with their waterfront.

One of the initial focuses of the plan will be to build waterfront parks in the southeast corner of Port Morris at 132nd and 134th Streets. This effort is meant to build off of momentum from the Randall's Island Connector, a pedestrian bridge from The Bronx to Randall's Island that is expected to be completed this summer and would be located very close to both parks.

"It became very clear, right off the bat, that people wanted to figure out safer ways and better ways to get to the connector when it opens up," said NYRP Executive Director Deborah Marton.

The parks are meant to create more of a neighborhood feel around the connector as well.

"We realized that when you get there, the only thing you can do is walk across to Randall's," Marton said. "There's no kind of district there."

NYRP would work with agencies including the Department of Transportation and DCAS to build the parks, and the nonprofit has been encouraged by positive responses from the agencies so far, according to Marton.

Although the group does not have an estimated timeline or cost yet for the 134th Street site, Marton said she believes the 132nd Street park would cost between $5 and $10 million and hopes to break ground on it during fiscal year 2017.

The waterfront at East 132nd Street is currently occupied by a dilapidated, graffiti strewn dock, and State Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo expressed strong support for funding renovations at the plan's unveiling on Wednesday morning.

"Show me a project," she said. "Tell me the dollars."

The plan also aims to better connect South Bronx residents to the waterfront by building a series of pathways down from St. Mary's Park to the East River and Bronx Kill and establishing a trail along the water.

"Mott Haven and Port Morris residents' desire to recreate on their own waterfront is among the highest in the city," the plan reads. "With not one public waterfront access point in the neighborhood, the creation of a waterfront park is a guaranteed success in the community."

Mychal Johnson, a longtime environmental advocate for the South Bronx, praised the decision to develop the parks as good for both people who live in the neighborhood and people who work in it.

"They’ll have a destination to go and have lunch and get out of their workspace and just feel better about themselves," he said. "So it adds quality of life to residents and employees in that area."