PORT MORRIS — Now that the long-awaited bridge between The Bronx and Randall's Island has finally opened, a New York nonprofit founded by Bette Midler wants to make sure residents can actually get there.
The New York Restoration Project will offer a free shuttle bus on weekends to bring Bronxites to the Randall's Island Connector starting the first weekend in April and running until the last weekend in October, according to Executive Director Deborah Marton.
The group may operate the shuttle bus after school as well if it can get enough funding to do so.
The health insurance company Healthfirst is helping to pay for the shuttle, and Dr. Susan Beane, medical director at the company, described it as a good way to help the wellbeing of South Bronx residents.
“By joining with the New York Restoration Project, we can positively impact the Mott Haven and Port Morris sections of The Bronx, neighborhoods where more than 30,000 of our members live,” she said in a statement.
Members are still determining the exact hours and route for the shuttle but are thinking of having it run from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., and they plan to focus mainly on NYCHA developments, making stops at St. Mary's Park Houses, Patterson Houses, Mitchel Houses and Mill Brook Houses.
"Close to 100,000 people live within a 10- to 15-minute walk from the entrance to the connector," Marton said, "but that part of The Bronx is still covered with infrastructure and so much truck traffic that it’s actually difficult to walk there."
The group decided to focus on NYCHA developments because of the large amount of people who live there, according to Marton.
The Randall's Island Connector officially opened on Nov. 14, beginning at 132nd Street and running south to the island under the Amtrak trestle and over the Bronx Kill.
Although park advocates praised the connector's ability to provide Bronxites with easier access to an island that has several options for recreation, the one downside noted was that it is fairly out of the way.
"It’s a pretty treacherous route to get to it," said Tupper Thomas, executive director of New Yorkers For Parks.
The shuttle is meant to counteract this, Marton said.
"We understand that the people in that part of the South Bronx need to have access to quality open space, and because that’s our mission — to make sure that there’s open space equity — we are working to get people to Randall’s Island whatever way we can," she said.