The wheels are finally in motion to install a bike path linking the south Bronx to Randall’s Island.
The Economic Development Corporation, an arm of the Bloomberg administration, is now vetting contractors that would build the Randall’s Island Connector Project, a tiny path that would run underneath an enormous Amtrak trestle, to a bridge atop Bronx Kill and to 330 acres of parkland.
The move comes after two decades of wrangling between EDC brass and Harlem River Yards Venture, the private firm holding a 99-year lease on the strip of land that’s owned by the state Department of Transportation. The land is part of a 96-acre waterfront subleased to several properties.
Easement negotiations took years, with neither side budging until recently. The financial terms of the negotiations were undisclosed.
Harry Bubbins with Friends of Brook Park, a south Bronx group, saw the deal as a case of “extortion” since the property is considered public, given state DOT’s ownership.
“They’re already making $60 million on that land over the course of their lease,” said Bubbins.
“We have to cough up more money to an entity that has been unresponsive to the community needs.”
Bubbins suspects the deal was finally sealed after the FreshDirect deal to come to the south Bronx exposed lack of adequate waterfront access to the south Bronx area.
But the city has made attempts at allowing for greater access, since the connector is part of a masterplan for a greenway, though it’s been a very slow process as crews build the paths piecemeal.
The Bronx has seen more bike paths during the Bloomberg administration. Parks Dept. crews are putting the finishing touches on the Hutchinson River Greenway in the north Bronx, where riders can cycle along the Hutchinson River Parkway via a smooth path that connects them to City Island and beyond.
Still, Bubbins is thrilled to see the bike path installed in what’s considered a poor section of the borough where bike paths are few and far between.
As it stands, Bronx cyclists would have to ride along a pedestrian bike bath at the Triborough/RFK Bridge to get to the park.
“It’s dark, the lights are out, there’s debris, there’s garbage, feces,” said Bubbins. “And it’s very uninviting for a family pushing a shopping cart to go have a picnic up and down those hills.”
Elizabeth Hamby, co-chair of Transportations Alternatives Bronx Activist Committee, agrees her ride along the Triborough is daunting.
“The current bridge is steep, scary, and often smelly and dirty –people use those dark corners as a toilet — which is challenging to any cyclist,” she said.
Federal dollars helped contribute to the project, which involves upgrading the rundown land into a smooth, asphalt bike path complete with bicycle symbols, lighting and landscaping under the trestle.
Bids are due by October 8. The project is expected to finish in early 2015.