SOUTH BRONX — Waterfront development in the South Bronx just received a $10 million boost.
The city received the grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to construct two bicycle and pedestrian bridges and develop about 0.75 miles of pathway along the river between Concrete Plant Park and Starlight Park.
The bridges will be installed over Amtrak lines at East 172nd Street and over the river near the intersection of Westchester and Bronx River Avenues.
"This is the biggest gap we have and really an intensely important gap," said Linda Cox, executive director of the Bronx River Alliance. "The connections are terrible for walkers and bikers."
Once this gap is closed, there will be 1.8 miles of continuous pathway along the Bronx River from Bruckner Boulevard to East 177th Street, according to Cox.
The BRA plans to start the first phase of construction in June and hopes to complete the entire project by 2020.
"It’s a very big step. It does get us a really connected path and a really big open gateway for Bronx residents who live east of the greenway in the Soundview neighborhood," Cox said.
"It will really give us a complete connected path in the South Bronx."
The group also hopes to build a bridge across the river at the docks in Starlight Park, which would require another $7 million to $10 million.
The BRA submitted the grant proposal in collaboration with the Parks Department and the money will be matched by funding from Mayor Bill de Blasio and other agencies.
"NYC Parks is thrilled to continue making our city a paradise for cyclists and walkers, with the Bronx River Greenway path becoming our newest exciting addition," Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said.
De Blasio described the greenway as an amenity that "provides residents with vital access to green space and safe, easy travel across the borough."
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and State Sen. Ruben Diaz allocated funding for the project as well.
Waterfront access has been a hot issue in the South Bronx for years. It was one of the main reasons behind opposition to FreshDirect's controversial plan to relocate to the borough, as people argued that opening up the waterfront for parkland would be a better use of the space.
Several New York groups have also released plans on how to make the waterfront more recreational, including the New York Restoration Project, which hopes to build two parks along the water at 132nd and 134th Streets, and SoBRO, which issued a study that called for developing a walkway along the borough's border with the Harlem River.
"We are a waterfront city," said Cox, "and so many of us know the water is there but don’t really have an opportunity to enjoy it."