Exclusive: Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito Urges NYS Department of Environmental Conservation To Fund The Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Staff at the public hearing for Open Spaces on October 22, 2014.
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Staff at the public hearing for Open Spaces on October 22, 2014.

Today, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Region 2, which covers the 5 boroughs of New York City, held a public hearing to discuss several projects which the agency has determined to be priorities — the Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan being one of several in The Bronx. The hearings were held at two different times to accommodate the various schedules of residents with the first from 2:30PM – 4:30PM and the 2nd session from 7PM – 9PM. Over 30 residents from The Bronx provided testimony at the public hearing not to mention the over 200 testimonies submitted to date online. (Testimonies are being accepted until December  17th, 2014 at 4:45PM – Click here to submit your testimony!)

Prior to the hearing, a workshop was given in which Lucy Robson, a Research & Planning Analyst at New Yorkers for Parks ( a citywide independent organization which advocates for quality parks and open spaces for all residents of New York City regardless of where they live) provided a statement in which she said:

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“We support all of the Region 2 Priority Conservation Projects…The Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan {8} is a key community-driven waterfront plan that would provide recreational and passive space to thousands of New Yorkers who call the South Bronx home.  Our recent research report, The Mott Haven Open Space Index, took an in-depth neighborhood-level look at open space provisions in Mott Haven, and found that the neighborhood lacks sufficient open space for residents.  Among other recommendations, our report includes support for increased waterfront access in the area.  We believe that the Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan can provide that to Bronx residents.”

The Mott Haven - Port Morris Waterfront Plan which has received priority status by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (#8 on the list)
The Mott Haven – Port Morris Waterfront Plan which has received priority status by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (#8 on the list)

The hearing began with an overview of what the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation does, the challenges it faces, and how they can overcome certain obstacles with the end result of protecting the environment while providing access to the citizens of New York State. Their mission is, “To conserve, improve and protect New York’s natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being. DEC’s goal is to achieve this mission through the simultaneous pursuit of environmental quality, public health, economic prosperity and social well-being, including environmental justice and the empowerment of individuals to participate in environmental decisions that affect their lives.”

City residents, including myself gave testimony as to why we believe the projects in our respective neighborhoods are important as members of the DEC listened attentively and with great respect. The energy in the room was one of hope and a lot of this can be attributed to the staff at DEC who truly were interested in listening to everything we had to say and even had questions to some of the comments. It was, in essence, democracy at work with government and citizens working together.

The final testimony was delivered by Matthew D. Viggiano from the New York City Economic and Community Development Division on behalf of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito who’s district covers the Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan.

Local Bronx resident caught two bluefish last month while fishing off Site E (East 132nd Street Pier) of the Waterfront Plan.
Local Bronx resident caught two bluefish last month while fishing off Site E (East 132nd Street Pier) of the Waterfront Plan.

In the statement addressed to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, Joe Martens, and Commissioner Rose Harvey, Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation at the agency, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito said, “I wholeheartedly support the recommendations submitted to you by the Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) for dedication of funds from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) within my district.” Mark-Viverito also added that, “Additionally, MIT planners and architects worked with the community to come up with a series of recommendations for the Lincoln Avenue site to turn what is now an underutilized industrial area into a place that brings the waterfront to the community in a meaningful way, while also highlighting the growing artist community and historic waterfront buildings.”

It is important to note the site which FreshDirect wants to take over and build a 500,000 square foot new headquarters is directly in this plan.  Their plans to put a warehouse and fueling station on the South Bronx Waterfront is indirect contradiction to the mission of the DEC.  According to Erin Clarke of NY1, “A DEC official said off camera that Wednesday’s showing of support almost ensures that this is a project that will remain a priority.

If you couldn’t make it to the hearing, PUBLIC COMMENTS ARE STILL BEING ACCEPTED HERE.

Below is the full letter from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito:

City-New-York--Seal

 

THE COUNCIL

OF

THE CITY OF NEW YORK

CITY HALL

NEW YORK, NY 10007

MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO

SPEAKER

October 22, 2014

Joe Martens
Comissioner, Department of Environmental Conservation
Rose Harvey
Commissioner, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
NYS DEC Region 2 Office – Long Island City
47-40 21st Street
Long Island City, NY 11101
 

Dear Commissioners Martens and Harvey,

I wholeheartedly support the recommendations submitted to you by the Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) for the dedication of funds from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) within my district.  The Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan was created through community based planning efforts and includes the work of local and City-wide advocacy groups, the Community Board, my elected colleagues, residents and other community based organizations.

These recommendations will improve my district’s ability to manage open space, conserve precious resources, enhance the equitable distribution of open space, connect and augment open space in the South Bronx, and provide resiliency protection to low income communities residing in flood zone areas who are in vital need of open space.

The recommendations include seven potential sub-projects, five of which reside within the 8th Council District. The projects discussed will advance the funding and policy recommendations crafted by the advisory committee in consultation with the community.  The opportunity areas in my district are the Bronx Kill Waterfront Park, The Lincoln Avenue Waterfront Park, and the Alexander Avenue Extension.  These parcels represent short-and long-term improvements that will achieve the RAC’s recommendation within this portion of the South Bronx.

The Bronx Kill Waterfront Park and the Park Avenue Boat Launch/Waterfront Park would enhance the quality of life of area residents.  Environmental Protection Fund resource directed to these sites could provide much needed resiliency protection, help to preserve the waterfront ecology, create much needed open space for recreation and boating activities, and bring meaningful improvement to the area.

The Lincoln Avenue and Alexander Avenue Extension sites could add to resiliency protections as well as address the need for quality open spaces in the South Bronx.  These new park amenities would bring the natural environment inland and highlight the historic waterfront buildings, preserving not just our waterfront but the architectural assets along the waterfront. Because it is easily accessible to pedestrians, the Lincoln Avenue site is already used by local residents for fishing and passive enjoyment.  Additionally, MIT planners and architects worked with the community to come up with a series of recommendations for the Lincoln Avenue site to turn what is now an underutilized industrial area into a place that brings the waterfront to the community in a meaningful way, while also highlighting the growing artist community and historic waterfront buildings.  The Alexander Avenue Extension of this park could bring additional resiliency protection while adding active or passive recreational areas.  These sites located in Flood Zone B, could be an important protective barrier in cases of flooding as well.

The western/southern portion of the waterfront in the South Bronx is by far one of the least improved stretches of waterfront in The Bronx. Investing EPF funds in these projects and connecting them with a waterfront greenway would provide the greatest benefit to the local community if built out.  Given the South Bronx’s numerous public health issues relating to asthma rates, obesity, diabetes, as ell as having one of the highest poverty rates in the country, prioritizing EPF spending for the Mott Haven-Port Morris waterfront area is vital.  Besides the economic benefits of more visitors, these parks will improve the natural environment, make the area more resilient to the effects of climate change, and help a dynamic neighborhood continue to flourish.  I urge you to provide the funding necessary to ensure this work becomes reality.

Sincerely,

Melissa Mark-Viverito

Speaker

###

Here is a guide to the Mott Haven – Port Morris Waterfront Plan if you haven’t seen it already:

NEW YORK STATE PROPOSES PRIORITIZATION OF MOTT HAVEN-PORT MORRIS WATERFRONT PLAN!

The Mott Haven - Port Morris Waterfront Plan which has received priority status by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (#8 on the list)
Click to Enlarge

A: Bronx Kill Waterfront Park – site of Native American settlement and burial ground; last significant open green space on the Mott Haven-Port Morris waterfront; lines the Bronx Kill waterway; directly connects to theRandall’s Island Connector”
B: Park Avenue Boat Launch and Waterfront Park  already green space; one of the few areas with actual water access not blocked by Oak Point Link rail; already being used as an ad hoc fishing and boat launch site
C: Lincoln Avenue Waterfront Park – easily accessible by pedestrians; already being used as an ad hoc fishing site; provides direct access to the waterfront; renderings have already been prepared by local architects; MIT produced a plan for this site in 2011
D: Alexander Avenue Extension of Lincoln Avenue Waterfront Park– easily accessible by pedestrians; vacant and unused site; community blocked by fence and guard; directly connected to Mott Haven antique district
E: East 132nd Street Pier – previously a pier here (and even a floating pool in 1902); in the 1980s, a ConEd explosion destroyed the pier, and the company never replaced it; currently residents crawling through holes in the fence to fish along the banks of the shore
F: Historic Port Morris Gantries -stands as a reminder of NYC’s rich nautical heritage; in 1902, the gantries fostered the development of a market, hotels and restaurants; recognized by the Historic Districts Council during its “Six to Celebrate” program on the basis of architectural and historic merit of the area; full reviatlization renderings have already been completed
G: Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Connecting Path– connecting West to East – Melrose to Hunts Point – the waterfront connecting path would weave through and around existing uses on the waterfront to connect the six interrelated projects, and also connecting to the “Randall’s Island Connector” near completion now
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