Bayshore/Watt Ave. park gate still not resolved

Spencer Estate residents are rallying to fight a proposed gate at Bayshore and Watt avenues (above) planned as part of the upcoming Pelham Bay Park restoration project. - Photo by Walter Pofeldt

After the NYC Parks Department informed Spencer Estate residents they’d have to accept a public access gate at Bayshore and Watt avenues to service the waterfront promenade it’s planning, the residents began a rally to make sure the project does not have a negative impact on the surrounding area.

While the residents said they prefer to access the waterfront from Pelham Bay Park’s wooded area, in February officials from Parks decided the gate location was essential to providing controlled waterfront access for park visitors.

Community Board 10’s Parks Committee voted in January to approve the promenade project, which is mostly funded by Croton Water filtration plant moneys, but only after Parks assured them it would be used for maintenance purposes only.

Bronx Parks commissioner Hector Aponte’s office have since stated the gate will be for public use as well, sparking community outrage.

“What we were really adamant about was not to have a gate at Watt Avenue,” said CB 10 parks committee member Craig Hughes. “The overall plan was to develop the area not for recreational use, but for observational use.”

Hughes said it would be foolish to throw away park enhancements, which could benefit the overall area.

Hughes said, “Let’s fight the gate, but not the project.”

If built, the promenade would extend from Bayshore Avenue, across a steel frame bridge, running the length of the park’s waterfront. All plans, however, are preliminary and further plans are in the works.

“They have yet to even prepare a design, so it is hard to see what we are fighting,” Hughes stated.

Hector Aponte, Senator Jeff Klein, a representative of Jimmy Vacca’s office, Spencer Estate Civic Association president Al Carena, and several residents of Bayshore Avenue walked through the proposed gate site on April 17.

Carena as well as members of SECA oppose the project, and feel they can ultimately convince Parks to change their minds.

“We wanted to point things out to Aponte, and we got to do this,” Carena stated. “I think we opened a dialogue, and the commissioner promised to come to our meeting when his schedule permits.”

Carena and the others members circulated a petition at the SECA meeting Wednesday, April 16, in opposition of the gate.

Aponte is expected to make an official plan announcement at SECA in coming months.

Trish Bertuccio, a spokeswoman for Parks, said the plans for the site’s waterfront access are still preliminary.

“The project is still in its infancy,” Carena noted, holding out hope that Parks will change its mind about the gate. “When a community board makes a request, it is unusual, but not unheard of, that the agency says no.”  

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