Until recently, residents of Hunts Point were generally unaware of the fact that their neighborhood was surrounded by water without looking at map, due to limited access to the Bronx River and minimal parkland. Majora Carter doubted the river even touched her neighborhood until her dog lead her down a trash-strewn abandoned street-end and discovered the river first hand. Finding this water access presented Majora with the opportunity to recapture the Bronx River for her neighborhood.
With one of the highest rates of diabetes and asthma in New York City coupled with one of the lowest ratios of parks to people, Hunts Point’s was in desperate need of parkland and open spaces. Studies have shown that availability of sufficient green spaces gives residents a stronger sense of “collective efficacy”—or the belief that together they can accomplish something. Low collective efficacy is present in areas with higher crime rates, chronic health problems, etc. Failure to utilize the Bronx River as a natural resource and community asset only perpetuated their environmental and social degradation.
The goals of the riverside park were as follows:
- Provide waterfront access to South Bronx communities
- Provide a space for environmental education and recreation
- Break psychological environmental barriers
- Increase green job opportunities in a collective effort to create more parks
- Restore natural areas along the river
- Improve water and air quality
After seeing the Bronx River face-to-face, Majora Carter wrote a $10,000 seed grant to allow residents and community organizations to green the site and use the space as a park before its formal redevelopment. Majora’s vision lead to New York City mayoral funds providing $3.27 million to renovate the park even further, as the New York City Parks & Recreation designers and planners consulted closely with community residents to create the ultimate design. In September of 2007, Hunts Point Riverside Park was completed and opened to the South Bronx community. The park will eventually connect to an 8-miles greenway that will run along the Bronx River from Westchester to New York City.
The community response to the Hunts Point Riverside Park has been one of pleasure and surprise as the waterfront park has opened up a wide range of economic, environmental, and healthy opportunities:
- Community access to Bronx River
- Growth in green-collar jobs to build more parks
- Start of a South Bronx greenway movement – connecting green space to neighborhoods
- Use of park for community-wide celebrations and activities including MCG’s very own outdoor summer film festival
The Hunts Point Riverside Park, was the first waterfront park of the South Bronx in 60 years and the first step towards a greenway movement in the Bronx.
The community response to the Hunts Point Riverside Park has been significant, as the leading edge of a continuing greenway project. With the help of projects like this, the potential of the South Bronx is becoming a reality, simultaneously creating jobs and a competitive business environment as well as a sustainable and positive green economic model.