Landmark status sought for historic Port Morris gantries

Once a part of a thriving industrial area, the Port Morris gantries have long been abandoned and forgotten.

However a historic landmarks request was recently submitted to examine the role they played during a time crucial period of a long gone era.

According to director of Communications at NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, Zodet Negron, a request was made to see if the gantries have the qualifications to make the cut.

LPC sent the following statement to the Bronx Times:

“The Landmarks Preservation Commission received a request on November 18 to evaluate the Port Morris gantries for consideration as possible individual landmarks. The agency is in the process of reviewing the request, which is done in light of the standards and requirements of the Landmarks Law.”

Negron explained while the public can propose a landmark through a request for evaluation (RFE), it is up to the LPC to identify any considerations to be merited as landmarks.

She went on to say once the LPC receives the request and its supporting materials, the agency conducts an evaluation and once proved worthy, additional research is done to be determine where the suggested landmark meets the basic criteria for designation.

According to Negron, there is no specific timeframe for the evaluation or research done in order to move forward and every review is circumstantial.

The LPC classifies landmarks in four different categories: individual landmarks, interior landmarks, scenic landmarks and historic districts.

The RFE for the gantries was filed under the ‘Individual Landmark’ category.

Minimal requirements for an individual landmark are: must be at least 30 years old and have “a special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the City, state, or nation.”

The gantries, located at East 135th Street date back to 1925 and were a major component in ferry transportation, particularly for those who worked and lived on Riker’s Island and North Brother Island before the bridge to Riker’s was built.

South Bronx United is the driving force behind the effort to landmark the gantries.

Mychal Johnson, a South Bronx United member, said the group has been advocating for decades to make the gantries and surrounding area a public space.

“A lot of people work in that industrial area and they don’t even have a place to sit down and eat lunch,” Johnson said.

Johnson said South Bronx United has approached several architects to produce renderings of how the potential public space could be used.

Though the gantries have not been recognized as a historic landmark yet, the waterfront space has been recognized by Historic District Council and the NYC Department of Environmental Conservation has it designated as an open space site, according to Johnson.

South Bronx United has a vision for the transformation of the gantries, but giving life to them is dependent on the LPC at the moment. “It’s sad that this underserved, overburdened and economically oppressed community doesn’t have waterfront access,” Johnson said. “This site should be preserved and sustained, to be enjoyed by the community.”