Today, New York Restoration Project (NYRP) unveiled a master plan to design, build, and fund a new network of connected open spaces that will improve quality of life and deliver measurable health benefits for South Bronx residents with parks, tree-lined streets, public art, bike lanes, and waterfront access.
Known as the Haven Project, the new vision for the South Bronx neighborhoods of Mott Haven and Port Morris was designed with community and health partners to promote physical activity, improve pedestrian safety, and increase social interaction in neighborhoods saddled with some of the city’s heaviest industrial uses and suffering from high rates of poverty, diabetes, asthma and obesity. The project is deliberate in making an active lifestyle a part of everyday life.
“NYRP has created green spaces in underserved communities for nearly two decades, and what we know is that trees, gardens and open space do much more than beautify neighborhoods – they transform lives,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director of New York Restoration Project. “The Haven Project’s plan for new open spaces in Mott Haven and Port Morris will improve the health of its residents and create a new destination for the South Bronx, encouraging active lifestyles and building social capital.”
The Haven Project was developed in conjunction with a world-class team of stakeholders, including South Bronx Unite, Civitas Inc., Montefiore Medical Center, Columbia University, HealthxDesign, Barretto Bay Strategies, and other partners, and was refined with South Bronx residents through community planning sessions over the past nine months. The planning phase is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Healthfirst joins Haven Project’s second phase as the initiative’s first Lead Sponsor, committing to the mission to improve quality of life in the area.
The master plan proposes a waterfront park at 134th Street, including the preservation of the historic gantry cranes, improved street crossings, bike and pedestrian routes and wayfinding to the waterfront and the Randall’s Island Connector, a NYC Economic Development Corporation initiative to connect the South Bronx with Randall’s Island, continuous waterfront access from the Randall’s Island Connector up to a redeveloped pier at 132nd Street, designed to protect the neighborhood and industries from storm surge and foster waterfront recreation, deployment of green infrastructure and plantings, beginning with over 800 new trees planted in Mott Haven in 2015 with two years of stewardship, and more.
“As a longtime advocate and champion of efforts to clean and green public spaces in the Bronx, I am thrilled at the prospect of this project and the huge positive impact it will have on our community. This is an important opportunity to expand greatly access to parks, especially through the Randall’s Island Connector, a project that is near and dear to my heart. A clean environment and access to nature have been proven to have a positive impact on people’s emotional and physical well-being. Thanks to this outstanding project, the residents of Mott Haven and Port Morris will have more opportunities to enjoy the benefits of an improved physical environment and green open spaces in their daily lives,” said Congressman Jose E. Serrano.
“Local parks, along with open, green spaces, are crucial to improving quality of life by enhancing public health and bringing exciting programs and recreational opportunities to our neighborhoods. The Haven Project reflects that necessary commitment to reimagining our communities as a more viable, sustainable and healthy place to live and raise families,” said State Senator Jose M. Serrano.
“I applaud the Haven Project for their community led approach to improving public access to open space. Their efforts are instructive as we seek more opportunities for the public to visit closed off green areas, like North Brother Island. Revitalizing open spaces for the public will help improve health outcomes, enhance overall quality of life and provide opportunities for young people to learn about the environment around them,” said Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of City Council Parks Committee.
“NYRP’s advocacy for an open space network is important for creating safe pedestrian and bicycle access to the Connector and improving neighborhood walkability in Port Morris and Mott Haven. NYC Parks looks forward to continuing its efforts with NYRP, NYCDOT, RIPA, and the community to improve open space access for enhanced neighborhood health,” said Commissioner Mitchell Silver, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation.
“The opening of the new connector to Randall’s Island is a truly historic moment, and the Randall’s Island Park Alliance looks forward to increased and improved access to the Park for neighbors in the South Bronx,” said Aimee Boden, President, Randall’s Island Park Alliance.
“Collaboration and connectivity are the cornerstones of NYCHA’s 10-year strategic plan, NextGeneration NYCHA. NYRP has been a strong ally of NYCHA, and our work together leverages our relationship towards the goal of more connected communities. The Haven Project in the South Bronx, an open space transformation plan, builds upon neighborhood partnerships that connect NYCHA residents with their community. We are thrilled to be a part of it,” said Rasmia Kirmani-Frye, Director of Public/Private Partnerships at NYCHA.
“The NYC DOT is excited that New York Restoration Project is advocating for better access to Mott Haven,” said Ted Wright, Director for Greenways at the NYC Department of Transportation. “The NYC DOT has been working hard on the South Bronx and Bronx River Greenways, and the new at-grade crossing from the Bronx to Randall’s Island. NYC DOT’s work in conjunction with NYRP will strengthen industry by allowing more people to safely walk and bike to the important industrial jobs in the South Bronx. We will continue to balance the needs of industry by designing bicycle and pedestrian corridors that safely accommodate truck movements. The much anticipated opening of the Randall’s Island Connector is a key link in the development of the South Bronx Greenway. The new bridge will draw Bronx residents from the upland communities to the waterfront. NYC DOT is committed to working with NYRP to explore possible network improvements that would facilitate safer more efficient travel for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles.”
The Haven Project open spaces were planned specifically to promote active lifestyles and to achieve health impacts, which will be measured and monitored by world-class healthcare partners, including Montefiore Medical Center and Columbia University.
“At Montefiore, we recognize the impact the health of the community has on the health of the individual,” said Amanda Parsons, M.D., M.B.A., vice president, Community and Population Health, Montefiore Health System. “We were happy to support the New York Restoration Project by providing data on health risks in the South Bronx and by sharing strategies we’ve used to increase physical activity in our community and create healthier neighborhoods. Providing safe access to the Randall’s Island connector, and creating more park space and walkways, will not only reshape the face of the South Bronx, it will give residents a better chance at health.”
The South Bronx has two times the city’s average rate for hospital admissions related to diabetes, and a 50% higher childhood asthma rate. The neighborhoods’ heavy industrial uses and highway clusters have led to increased pedestrian injuries, resulting in more emergency room visits. While the benefits of open space to health outcomes are widely accepted, the Haven Project goes one step further, creating an infrastructure to track them and a model that could be replicated nationally. TreesCharlotte, an environmental nonprofit based in Charlotte, will shadow the team throughout this process to gather and share insights, and work with local groups to apply these lessons to their community in North Carolina.
“The Mailman School of Public Health has a rich history of engagement with urban populations in order to improve health within cities, and the partnership with New York Restoration Project comes at the right moment to make a lasting impact on health in the South Bronx. Our faculty are well poised for a role in disseminating actionable knowledge, and in the process of joining interdisciplinary alliances that stretch intellectual boundaries we have an opportunity to orient our thinking toward solutions. And we will all be eager to see solutions emerging in the Haven Project brought to life in our city,” said Linda P. Fried, M.D., B.A., M.P.H., Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
New York Restoration Project will raise and leverage the funds needed for the full build-out of the plan, and is already implementing short-term improvements by planting hundreds of trees in the area. Additionally, NYRP is currently working with Haven Project Lead Sponsor Healthfirst and Sportime, operator of the Randall’s Island Tennis Center that provides Bronx and East Harlem youth with free tennis instruction and scholarships, to pilot a free shuttle bus program using Sportime vehicles that will provide a safe transportation alternative for Mott Haven and Port Morris residents to navigate the disconnected and dangerous crossings that lead to NYC EDC’s Randall’s Island Connector, making Randall’s Island more accessible and connected to the South Bronx. With Duggal Visual Solutions, Inc., NYRP will reimagine the surfaces of industrial buildings as mediums for wayfinding, turning them into larger-than-life public art pieces that not only engage, but provide reliable direction in and around the area, and to Randall’s Island.
NYRP has a twenty-year track record of beautifying open space to cultivate community in low-income neighborhoods, revitalizing Northern Manhattan parks, and maintaining 52 community gardens across the city. The Haven Project takes this unique model to scale, leveraging private resources to improve the public realm across entire neighborhoods, with a real, measurable impact on quality of life and health.