SERIES | Community Briefs: CB1 looks to curb air pollutants, increase public safety in area parks

Mott Haven
Mott Haven is classified as one of the last developable waterfront areas in NYC, which has led to an influx of attention and fears of gentrification.
Photo courtesy B6 Real Estate Advisors

On Dec. 30, all 59 of New York City’s community boards will kick off the 2022-23 budget process when, along with local agencies, they examine their capital and expense needs before submitting budgetary requests to Mayor Eric Adams for inclusion in his preliminary budget. Over the next two months, the Bronx Times will explore the needs of each of the borough’s 12 community districts in our short-form series “Community Briefs.”

Community District 1

District neighborhoods (population): Mott Haven-Port Morris (57,718) and Melrose (42,651)

District boundaries: Harlem River, East 149th Street, Park Avenue, East 159th Street, East 161 Street, Prospect Avenue and the East River.

Asthma Corridor

The Mott Haven and Port Morris areas are in the thick of a massive transformation, as pre-COVID development spikes are rapidly making use of the waterfront areas. If the census’ 5,000-plus population booms in the areas are any indication, the South Bronx will continue to increase in demand.

However, existing and longtime residents are still grappling with some of the highest environmental ills in the city, including Asthma Alley, where the child and adult asthma corridor plagues those two constituencies. Lincoln Medical & Mental Health Center handles approximately 50,000 pediatric visits and 45,000 pediatric emergency room visits, 5% of which are asthma related.

Community Board 1 seeks heightened investment of critical air circulation and conditioning systems in its schools, including PS 1 Courtlandt School, where board members describe the air quality as “extremely poor” — creating an adverse impact on the learning environment for students.

Lincoln Medical & Mental Health Center, handles approximately 50,000 pediatric visits and 45,000 pediatric emergency room visits, 5% of which are Asthma related. Photo courtesy NYC Health + Hospitals

The Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has added the funding request to its capital projects, but other schools such as PS 25, the Bilingual School located at East 149th Street — where one classroom floor has buckled — will not receive funding to improve their infrastructure.

Saint Mary’s Park

The South Bronx district, in particular its waterfronts areas, are on track to get more green over the next few years.

Projects like the Waterfront Public Access Park — which connects public access to the Harlem River waterfront — aim to increase resident access to the district’s waterfronts and spruce up beloved but decaying Pontiac Park for infrastructure work.

As NYC rebuilds its waterfronts, access for Bronx residents remains inequitable: report

Sitting in the middle of the Community District 1, the region’s largest park, St. Mary’s Park, has seen evergreen calls for improvements by local officials, and in recent months, concerns regarding public safety and drug use.

According to the city’s current FY23 capital budget, roughly $38.7 million in city, state and private money has been earmarked for the park and surrounding infrastructure on East 149th Street. But CB1 is calling for more investment in the park including construction of a soccer field and increased lighting and public safety enforcement.

Board members told the Bronx Times that drug use has increased in the park, and they have pointed to the need for policing patrol in the park, but also continued funding for St. Mary’s Recreational Center. In 2018, St. Mary’s Park, which is across the street from an elementary school, was one of 16 parks to get official syringe-disposal boxes under former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration.

St. Mary’s Park is one of the areas that Community Board 1 has targeted for upgrades as well as enhanced public safety measures due to drug use there. File photo

Public Safety

In 2019, the 40th Precinct — which covers Port Morris, Melrose and Mott Haven — was one of three Bronx precincts, also including the 41st and 42nd, which was a focal point for the NYPD in efforts to reduce crime.

The 40th Precinct has seen a 30% rise in crime over the past year however, with burglaries and robberies rising by 101% and 44%, respectively.

In Port Morris, an urban community farm is fighting area food insecurity, gentrification and also targeted theft

Various requests from CB1 to city officials cite a need for more police patrol presence in the 40th Precinct and the Police Service Area 7 Housing Authority Developmentsm, where crime has spiked 41.6%.

While the OMB notes that the NYPD’s total uniformed staffing levels depend on decisions made during the budget process, community members also point to increased lighting as another crime prevention investment.

Lighting requests for the Major Deegan underpasses at Brook, St. Ann’s, Lincoln and Willis avenues, as well as the aforementioned St. Mary’s Park, are highlighted, but OMB stated that those requests need to be funded by the Borough Commissioner Jessenia Aponte’s office.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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