Congressman Jose Serrano, Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr., and NYC Department of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan met at the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation offices on E. 161st Street on Monday, December 22 to celebrate the opening of the remodeled Lou Gehrig Plaza.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated major improvement to Lou Gehrig Plaza, located at the corner of Grand Concourse and E. 161st Street, turning the underutilized public space from a parking lot to a beautiful usable space for pedestrians with three distinctive raised terraces, new granite pavers and steps, ornamental lighting, granite bollards, and benches that highlight the best of the Bronx’s main thoroughfare.
Construction included replacing the E. 161st Street underpass arch structure, adding urban design elements to the plaza, and incorporating new roadways, traffic patterns, sidewalks, and dedicated bike lanes to improve mobility and safety for pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists, finishing a full 316 days ahead of schedule.
“I was so pleased to furnish early resources for this ambitious project that were so sorely needed,” Serrano said. “The Grand Concourse is the beating heart of the Bronx; the Concourse’s vitality reflects the community which embraces it. The new look and pedestrian safety features mean that the lower Grand Concourse will once again be the ‘Champs-Elysees’ of the Bronx.”
Serrano said that like Lou Gehrig, who was a Bronx resident, the south Bronx refused to quit, and now he is beginning to see so many positive changes.
Carrion said that the project will enhance what he feels is the most important symbolic street in the borough – on the skids when the borough declined in both population and prestige in the 1970s, and reborn as the Bronx replaces the people and jobs it lost. He also praised the men and women working in engineering and construction who made the project possible.
“As we prepare to celebrate the centennial of the Bronx’s most important thoroughfare, we gather to re-inaugurate the grandeur of the Concourse,” the BP said. “The new design reflects back on its creator’s original vision.”
Sadik-Khan was proud of getting the project completed so early, and thanked Bronx DOT deputy commissioner Constance Moran for her role.
DOT, in partnership with the community, launched the project in January 2006 as part of its efforts to improve pedestrian and traffic safety, increase accessibility, accommodate sustainable transit models and enhance the environment.
“Our streets and sidewalks are more than the functional corridors for getting around,” Sadik-Khan said. “They serve as focal points where community, commerce and commuters intersect. The transformation of the Grand Concourse will help it retain its rightful place as a key destination now and in the future – a ‘grand’ centerpiece that enhances the borough’s quality of life.”
Community Board 4 chairwoman D. Lee Ezell also spoke about the public’s delight in the completed project, which will enhance what many feel is the social and political hub of Bronx life, directly opposite the Mario Merola Building/Bronx County Courthouse at 851 Grand Concourse, where the borough president has his office.
“We would like to thank DOT for managing the project so well,” Ezell said. “The community had input into this project.”