The Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan

 

Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan Overview
 
The Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan is a proposal to provide 100,000+ people access to a public waterfront that, for decades, has been inaccessible.  The plan is consistent with three rezonings on adjacent land as well as Vision 2020 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, provides a logical solution to climate change effects on SMIAs located within flood zones and gives the underserved community open space to counteract health consequences caused by an oversaturation of highways and truck-intensive businesses.  The plan consists of the following projects:
A – Bronx Kill Waterfront Park
B – Park Avenue Boat Launch/Waterfront Park
C – Lincoln Avenue Waterfront Park
D – Alexander Avenue Extension
E – East 132nd Street Pier
F – Historic Port Morris Gantries
G – Waterfront Connecting Path
Background on the Land – The majority of these projects are situated on a 96 acre plot of public waterfront land located within a Zone B flood zone and leased in 1991 by the NYSDOT to Harlem River Yard Ventures, Inc.  Harlem River Yards currently subleases to a FedEx hub, a Wall Street Journal/New York Post printing and distribution center, a 5000 ton per day waste transfer station and
a fossil fuel power plant.  The effect of such facilities on air quality in the South Bronx, where we have an asthma epidemic, is very concerning.  Asthma rates in the South Bronx are eight times the national average; asthma deaths are three times the national average; and it is estimated that one in every five children in the South Bronx has asthma.  The Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan would help offset this health crisis by providing designated open spaces on the waterfront for walking, running, boating and engaging in other sports activities.
A Solution to Climate Change Effects on SMIAs in Flood
Zones
– Harlem River Yards is part of the South Bronx Significant Maritime Industrial Area (SMIA), which is more than 850 acres in size, stretching from Port Morris on the Harlem River to Hunts Point on the East River.  Hurricane Sandy caused significant flooding of the South Bronx SMIA.  In Mott Haven-Port Morris alone, upwards of three and half feet of water swelled Harlem River Yards at Lincoln Avenue, leaving a trail of destroyed businesses and a concerning toxic-appearing residue along the streets.  The foundation of the former East 132nd Street pier, which abuts the Long Island Sound and is adjacent to a fossil fuel power plant, was forcefully ripped out of the ground from the pressure of the storm.  The Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan would integrate designated open spaces on currently unoccupied portions of Harlem River Yards to help offset potentially toxic effects of inevitable storm surges flooding the current businesses that lease space (including the power plant, the waste transfer station, the FedEx hub and the NY Post printing/distribution center.
The proposal would also help guard against potential climate change
effect threats to the borough’s electrical grid infrastructure given that most of the Southern Bronx ConEd power plants are located in and around this area.  The potential for the destruction of this grid can be seen in the example of what happened to the 14th Street
ConEd station during Hurricane Sandy.
A Plan Consistent with Local Zoning Changes and Vision
2020 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan
In 1997, the City Planning Commission established the city’s first mixed-use district in a five block area along Bruckner Boulevard near Harlem River
Yards.  The rezoning was very successful, serving as a catalyst for strengthening the area’s emerging antique businesses (with new street furniture, trees and lamps) and allowing for the successful
development of approximately 185 new residential units, including 42 rehabilitated row houses, 36 new residential units and the renovation of the Estey Piano Factor (aka “Clock Tower”) with over 100 converted residential lofts.  Building on the success of the 1997 rezoning, a further 11 blocks directly adjacent to Harlem River Yards was rezoned from manufacturing to mixed-use in 2005.  Notably, the rezoned area even included a part of Harlem River Yards.  The rezoning, supported by the Bronx Borough President and Community Board 1, was passed to reflect the current mixed-use character of the area, to bring new uses to underutilized land and buildings, to enable existing residencies to become conforming uses, to further the city’s housing initiative, to focus on improved
waterfront access and to create a vibrant 24/7 neighborhood by enhancing the pedestrian environment (transforming the area into a true “Gateway to the Bronx”).  As a result of the rezoning, several multifamily buildings were renovated, additional warehouse spaces were converted to lofts and, notably, a 400+ residential unit was build (and is now occupied) directly across the street from Harlem River Yards.
In addition to consistency with local rezonings, all of the proposed projects within the Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan have been included in Vision 2020 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, Reach 7, South Bronx, and certain sections of the South Bronx SMIA waterfront are currently being proposed to have SMIA designation lifted, including parts of Harlem River Yards.
A – Bronx Kill Waterfront Park
The site proposed for the “Bronx Kill Waterfront Park” is the last significant open green space on the Mott Haven-Port Morris waterfront and,
of particular note, lines the Bronx Kill waterway, which has served as a
canoeing and kayaking destination for South Bronx community groups, who have
been forced to access the waterway from Randall’s Island despite its potential
access from the South Bronx shore.  The Bronx Kill has also been included in Vision 2020 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan as an area in which to explore improvements and support habitat restoration and, where feasible, the navigability of the Bronx Kill for kayaks and canoes.
In addition to a boat launch, the Bronx Kill Waterfront Park has also been re-envisioned to contain a low-cost earth and rock auditorium as well as low cost soccer fields, basketball courts and a playground.
The site would also contain a memorial to the Ranchaqua Native Americas, as historic evidence exists of a Ranchaqua settlement and burial ground on the site.  The southern extension of the Bronx Kill Waterfront Park would stretch along the coast line from St. Ann’s Avenue to the Hell’s Gate Bridge, directly connecting the park to the “Randall’s Island Connector”, a pedestrian and bicycle bridge connecting the South Bronx to Randall’s Island, which is scheduled for completion in 2013.
This coastal site is also important because it is located in a Zone B flood zone of an SMIA and is adjacent to a fossil fuel power plant.  This proposal can help mitigate the effects of climate change and potential flooding of industry and electrical infrastructure on the waterfront in the future.
  
B – Park Avenue Boat Launch/Waterfront Park
This site is located on Park Avenue where it meets the Harlem River and is west of the Major Deegan Expressway.  It is already green space, and the site cannot be built on.  It is one of the few areas with actual water access and is not blocked by the Oak Point Link rail.  It is already being  used as an ad hoc fishing and boat launch site.  This coastal site is also important because it is located in a Zone B flood zone of an SMIA, and this proposal can help mitigate the effects of
climate change on the waterfront in the future.  It is also within an area proposed for elimination from the SMIA designation and is included in Vision 2020 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan.
 C – Lincoln Avenue Waterfront Park
 
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This site is proposed to encompass Lincoln Avenue to Alexander Avenue from East 132nd Street to the Harlem River.  This site is already being used as an ad hoc fishing site and is easily accessible by pedestrians.  It provides direct access to the waterfront, and in a recent project conducted by Meta Local Collaborative, community
residents expressed overwhelming enthusiasm for using this space for relaxation, celebrations and recreation.  MIT produced a plan
for this waterfront site; see page 68 here, and renderings such as the above have been prepared by local architects.  This site is also important because it is in a flood zone of an SMIA and was impacted by Hurricane Sandy with upwards of three feet of flooding.  This proposal can help mitigate the effects of climate change and potential flooding of industry and waste transfer stations along the waterfront in the future.  It is also within an area proposed to be
eliminated from SMIA designation and is included in Vision 2020.

D – Alexander Avenue Extension
This site is proposed to encompass from Alexander Avenue to Willis Avenue and from East 132nd Street to the Harlem River.  This site would be an extension of the Lincoln Avenue Waterfront Park.  The site is a vital part of the Mott Haven-Port Morris waterfront and is currently being used sporadically for a motorcycle training course that could easily be relocated to another site off of the waterfront.  This coastal site is also important because it is located in a Zone B flood zone of an SMIA (and was impacted by Hurricane Sandy with upwards of three feet of flooding), and this proposal can help mitigate the effects of climate change and potential flooding
of industry and the waste transfer station on the waterfront in the future.  Finally, this area was included in Vision 2020 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan.

E – East 132nd Street Pier
This site is located at East 132nd Street where it meets the East River and is a NYCDOT street end.  There was a pier here previously and even a floating pool in 1902.  In the 1980’s, an explosion by ConEdison destroyed the pier, and the company never replaced
it.  It is already being used as an ad hoc fishing site.  This coastal site is also important because it is located in a Zone B flood zone of an SMIA (which was impacted by Hurricane Sandy) and can help mitigate the effects of climate change and potential flooding of industry and electrical infrastructure on the waterfront in the future.  Finally, this site was designated in the Vision 2020 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan as an area of significance.
F – Historic Port Morris Gantries
This site is located between East 134th Street and East 135th Street
at the East River.  The Historic Port Morris Gantries were recently recognized by the Historic Districts Council during its “Six to
Celebrate” program which identified projects on the basis of the architectural and historic merit of the area, the level of threat to the neighborhood, the strength and willingness of the local advocates and the potential for HDC’s preservation support to be meaningful.
At roughly four stories tall, the Port Morris Gantries stand as a reminder of New York City’s rich nautical heritage. Prior to the construction of bridges in the early 20th century, passengers and goods were transported by ferry services operating from slips on the waterfront. The 134th Street ferry slip was established in 1902 by the New York and College Point Ferry Company, which had
been operating ferries across the East River from various points since 1886. To capitalize on Port Morris’ inclusion in a network of communities serviced by ferry, a market, hotels, restaurants and stables were constructed nearby in 1905.
With the advance of railroad, subway and highway infrastructure, the necessity of ferry service declined and many companies went
out of business. The New York and College Point Ferry Company went out of business in 1918, though not entirely due to its obsolescence. George Ehret, Sr., the company’s founder, was understood to have been a financial supporter of German causes and was in Germany at the onset of World War I. As a result of his decision to stay there, the United States government considered him an enemy alien and seized his assets, including the ferry company.
From that point, the city controlled ferry operations from the site for transportation to city institutions located on Rikers, Welfare and North Brother Islands. In 1948, North Brother became home to Riverside Emergency Housing for World War II veterans and their families. To accommodate this new island traffic, the city upgraded the 134th Street ferry facility and constructed the ferry bridges that same year. The ferry bridges functioned as gangways to load passengers and vehicles onto the ferry boats and absorb some of the impact of boats entering the slip. In 1966, the ferry was discontinued and the Police Department began using the site as a marina. A one-story brick building was constructed for the Harbor Unit headquarters. Today the site is still owned by the city, but has been mostly unused since the 1990s.
The site acquisition would enable a public green space at the Port Morris Gantries site and is consistent with the recognition given to
the space as a priority area in Vision 2020 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan.  Finally, this coastal site is also important because it is located in a Zone B flood zone and was impacted by Hurricane Sandy with a significant water surge because of its location off of
the Long Island Sound.  Given its close proximity to power stations, this proposal would serve to offset the effects of waterfront storm surges on the power grid.
G – Waterfront Connecting Path
A proposed bike/walk/run pathway along the Mott Haven-Port
Morris waterfront shoreline from Park Avenue in the west to East 135th Street in the east.  The Mott Haven-Port Morris
Waterfront would benefit significantly from a bike/walk/run path along the entire shoreline from Park Avenue in the west to East 135th Street in the east which would connect the Park Avenue Boat Launch to the Lincoln Avenue Waterfront Park (extended by the Alexander Avenue Waterfront Park), which would lead to the open space adjoining the Bronx Kill waterway/boat launch and then continue to the East 132nd Street Pier and finally the Historic Port Morris Gantries. Providing connectivity between these vital waterfront access points in Mott Haven-Port Morris would assist in the success of each point.  This coastal path is also important because it is located in a Zone B flood zone of an SMIA and can help mitigate the effects of climate change and potential flooding of industry and electrical infrastructure on the waterfront.

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