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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Demonstrators demand Van Cortlandt Park link

By Shant Shahrigian
Posted
Photo by Shant Shahrigian
Protesters gather along the Major Deegan Expressway on Saturday to demand a pedestrian footbridge that they say is long overdue even though a city agency calls the issue a non-starter.

As rain drizzled and traffic zoomed along the Major Deegan Expressway on Saturday morning, dozens of protesters gathered on opposite sides of the highway to call for a pedestrian bridge that would unite both halves of Van Cortlandt Park.

“Build the bridge! Fulfill your promise!” the men, women and children organized by Community Board 8 and Friends of Van Cortlandt Park shouted around the halfway point of where the Deegan cuts through the greenery, while some motorists honked in support.

With funding that could have gone to the bridge long ago allocated to other projects, the demonstration was a symbolic gesture. Calls for the structure date back to 1999, when the City Council approved the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application to locate the Croton Water Filtration Plant underneath Van Cortlandt Park’s Mosholu Golf Course.

Among the council’s stipulations, the DEP had to commission a feasibility study for the pedestrian bridge while evaluating other parks improvement projects that lawmakers extracted in exchange for locating the plant under the golf course. But the study did not come until years after about $200 million total set aside for the parks improvements had been doled out, with a 2010 evaluation deeming the bridge technically feasible. An engineering firm placed the price tag for the structure at about $3 to $6 million.

In the face of ongoing calls for the bridge, DEP officials say that barring a drastic change in course, it is too late to build it now. The Croton plant itself remains a point of contention in the community, with residents furious at years of delays and cost overruns. 

“New Yorkers want DEP to stay focused on keeping their water bills as low as possible, which means ensuring that our resources are only used for critical projects that will ensure a reliable source of high quality drinking water and continue to improve the health of New York harbor,” spokesman Ted Timbers said in an e-mail.

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dartwestphal

We are all being misled. The City Council resolution that mandated the study and construction (if feasible) of the bridge connecting the two halves of the aqueduct trail was passed years before the $200 million was thought of, agreed to and doled out. Other projects were built with the resources that the Council required outside the $200 million. The new playground at the corner of Gun Hill Road and Jerome Avenue is just one example.

For DEP to claim that the late feasibility study (that they were supposed to get done in the first place) prevented an allocation of money to the project is nonsensical. If the law suit on alienation had been lost and there had been no $200 million they still would have been obligated to build the bridge as a condition of putting the plant in the park.

DEP also spends plenty of money to create educational resources about the water system such as an educational trail near the Newtown Creel sewage treatment plant. How can a bridge connecting the two halves of the Croton Aqueduct trail not be profitably used by DEP to educate citizens about the history and importance of out water system?

Thursday, April 3, 2014 | Report this
kilgara

The park is an escape from its' ever increasingly urban surroundings. We never needed a bridge and we don't need one now.

Friday, April 4, 2014 | Report this
bronxrunner

I agree with previous poster. Let's see a real demand from the people, not these well funded interest groups. the fact is, hardly anyone uses VC park. Whenever I walk the woods there, I see very few people, sometimes none. There is no need for a connecting bridge.

Friday, April 4, 2014 | Report this
KarenArgenti

Dart is correct, the issue has nothing to do with the second deal where the DEP bought off elected official all over the Bronx to put parks IN their districts in return for the vote to alienate parkland in Van Cortlandt Park for use by the DEP filter plant that filters water that is not needed, does not need filtering, or could be filtered someplace else where they have just built a state of the art Ultra Violet Plant.

Just the facts:

More than 400 people have signed the petition and stated their opinion. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/croton-aqueduct-trail-pedestrian-bridge-in-van

The promise was made when the DEP ULURP'd the Filter Plant construction. If they did not like the deal, then they should have started from scratch. Gut if they that then they would have had to create a new use group in the zoning regulation, and ask every community board in the city to agree to build industrial facilities in their parks. It would have never passed.

The bridge is for pedestrian and bike use (no cars) to replace the loss created by Robert Moses when he decided to cut the park in half by putting the Major Deegan in the middle. In some places he took 10 lanes, like the place where the community was promised access.

It is a big park, and if you do not want to go to the other side, that is your choice. Step aside for the rest of us. Thank you.

Friday, April 4, 2014 | Report this
Jackbx

@bronxrunner -- "well-funded interest groups"? Huh? Where are these groups? Friends of Van Cortlandt Park? I wish they were well-funded.

Regarding your comment about park use -- this pedestrian bridge makes the park much more user friendly. Not to mention the appeal of walking the path of the old Croton Aqueduct. The park is dissected by highways -- it needs to be re-connected for park users.

The hypocrisy of the DEP spokesperson, Ted Timbers is astounding. The DEP has proven it has no ability to husband its resources effectively (see cost overruns to the out-of-date technology filtration plant) Now when we demand one of the important crumbs they promised us -- they have to be responsible with taxpayer's dough? Where was that careful use of tax dollars when they were lining the pockets of contractors that DEP heads ended up working for?

Sunday, April 6, 2014 | Report this
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