Actress Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project (NYRP) last week unveiled a master plan to design, build, and fund a new network of open spaces in the South Bronx.
The non-profit said the project will not only look good, but will improve the health of people living in an area which has two times the city’s average rate for hospital admissions related to diabetes, and a 50 percent higher childhood asthma rate.
“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.”
According to NYRP, the South Bronx’ heavy industrial uses and highway clusters have also led to increased pedestrian injuries, resulting in more emergency room visits.
Known as the Haven Project, the master plan covers 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.
And in a national first, the actial health impacts will be measured and monitored by healthcare partners, including Montefiore Medical Center and Columbia University.
Linda P. Fried,Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University., said, “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”
The master plan includes a waterfront park at 134th Street that will include 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;
Community identity and engagement through public art in a network of trails
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.
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.
The Haven Project was developed in conjunction with South Bronx Unite, Civitas Inc., Montefiore Medical Center, Columbia University, HealthxDesign, Barretto Bay Strategies, and other partners.
The planning phase is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
“As an environmental and social justice advocacy coalition, South Bronx Unite is excited about the potential of the Haven Project to provide public waterfront access and designated green space to our under-served community, which has long suffered a disproportionate amount of adverse negative impacts to our environment and to our health,” said Mychal Johnson of South Bronx Unite.
Congressman Jose E. Serrano, said, “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.”