A broken link and a broken promise — that is how citizens of the Bronx have the right to feel about the issue of the Van Cortlandt Park pedestrian bridge.
Thirteen years ago, the City Council approved the construction of the Croton Filtration Plant in Van Cortlandt Park on the condition that the city’s Department of Environmental Protection would provide a range of improvements to the park. Among those proposed improvements was a pedestrian bridge over the Major Deegan Expressway to make the eastern and western halves of the park accessible to users. Thirteen years later, the bridge — and the funds to build it — are nowhere to be found.
But thanks to the efforts of Councilman Oliver Koppell, the Croton Filtration Plant Monitoring Committee, Community Board 8 and a dogged community spirit exemplified by Karen Argenti, this bridge is back on the front burner of city politics where it belongs. A bridge knitting together Van Cortlandt Park — and by extension, the borough — is one of the key benefits promised to the Bronx in return for the construction of the filtration plant in our beloved park. Everyone who cares about responsive, transparent democratic governance will want the city to keep its promise.
A little history: in 1999, the City Council listened to the outcry of protest from Bronx citizens and parks advocates and made sure that damage done to Van Cortlandt Park by the construction of the filtration plant would be repaired or mitigated by park improvements. It passed a resolution with dollar amounts attached to every item — except the Van Cortlandt pedestrian bridge.
The reason was simple: the city and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) wanted to know whether the bridge was feasible before it committed the money. So the resolution read very clearly that after the completion of a positive feasibility study, “a Budget Modification, transferring from DEP to DPR [Department of Parks and Recreation] funds sufficient to design and build [the bridge,] shall be introduced in the Council by the Mayor.”