Rally to demand safe pedestrian and bicycle access to Harlem River waterfront

Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner speaks about the need for safe access for cyclists.
Photos by Jason Cohen

Residents, activists and elected officials gathered last week to demand safer streets near the Depot Place Bridge for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Depot Place Bridge is the only southern access point to the Harlem River Greenway, Bridge Park South, Bridge Park North and Roberto Clemente State Park.

Yet the New York State Department of Transportation is planning to replace one of the existing sidewalks near the on-ramp to I-87 South (the Deegan Expressway) with a five-foot-path for bicycles and pedestrians to share.

On Oct. 23, residents and community leaders from Highbridge and the Bronx joined activists and representatives from the Harlem River Working Group, the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, Transportation Alternatives and local elected officials to call on the NYSDOT to make appropriate space on the Depot Place Bridge renovation for bicycle and pedestrian access.

Residents Association of Highbridge Gardens president, Norman “Sobie” McGill.

“Why when New York City has just spent tens of millions of dollars renovating the High Bridge, the High Bridge Step Streets, Bridge Park North, Bridge Park South and the Harlem River Greenway and New York State has invested over 20 million dollars in renovating Roberto Clemente State Park, can’t the State Department of Transportation work with New York City Parks and New York City Department of Transportation to allow community members to safely access these parks?” said Chauncy Young, member of the Harlem River Working Group/BCEQ.

Despite the many requests from local residents for improved safety, NYSDOT is still moving forward with a design that will utilize half the width of the bridge, provide perpendicular parking for 16 NYPD vans, while providing almost no safe access for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Young said he does not understand why the state DOT and NYC are dragging their feet on this issue.

He added that creating a five foot sidewalk for pedestrians and cyclists to travel both ways without a stoplight on one of the busiest entrances to the Deegan is just crazy.

John Montoute and his son Elijah speak about bike safety.

“Why is the city and the state putting so much money into renovating the park and not doing the crucial connection of making sure NYC and NY State are working together to make sure we get safe access?” Young asked.

Bike rider and Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner was also in attendance to voice her concern. She noted that it’s a shame bike riders from the Bronx often have to travel to other boroughs to feel safe.

“When people talk about the Bronx, they talk about how we’re the least healthy, they talk about our COVID-19 numbers being very high, they talk about our asthma rate and as you can see, we’re surrounded by the Major Deegan, which gives off a lot of emissions, which contributes to our health being the way that it is,” Joyner said. “Today, we are demanding you guys step up to the plate. The community cannot wait any longer.”

John Montoute and his son Elijah, a student at P.S. 294, take frequent bike rides together. But John said he was a bit worried about traveling over the Greenway now. He hoped the city and state realized their mistake and could find a way to make it accessible.

“I don’t know if I would be safe right now bringing my son on the trail,” Montoute said.