A Summary of the Plan

Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan

The Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan is a community-developed proposal – which received recognition from the State Open Space Committee – 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 seven interconnected projects.

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
 – 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 – 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 the Randall’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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