A long-neglected slice of the Bronx waterfront is being revived, something the community has long sought to improve the area's quality of life. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Stunning views of the East River can be seen from the southern tip of 132nd Street in the Bronx. But for more than three decades, people had to crawl under barbed wire, slip through holes in chain-linked fences and walk precariously over this derelict pier to enjoy it.
"It shouldn't be that hard to have access to the waters that surrounds this neighborhood," said Mychal Johnson, co-founder of South Bronx Unite.
"Just because this community may be on the lower end of the economic scale doesn't mean that it should be denied access to the waterfront," said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
But the pier may soon emerge from years of neglect. Friday, city officials and a community organization called the New York Restoration Project announced a $2 million investment to rebuild the pier.
"All the residents of the south Bronx should be able to come here and enjoy this on a Saturday, go fishing, launch kayaks," said Deborah Marton, executive director of the New York Restoration Project.
The renovation is phase one of the Haven Project, a community-led effort to improve the well-being of residents in the south Bronx, where many suffer from asthma and other health problems.
"You're opening up a pier where we'll have access to the waterfront, have access to that fresh air," said Councilman Rafael Salamanca.
"I don't have to necessarily now go to Manhattan to enjoy a nice bike ride along the waterfront," said Ed Garcia Conde, the founder of Welcome2TheBronx.
When the entire Haven Project is completed, it's expected to connect to another recently completed project that provides open space to this area. That would be the Randall’s Island Connector, a pedestrian path linking the south Bronx to the East River Island. The owner of the property next to the pier will allow a walkway to be built to the connector.
"Then, you have access to Randall’s lsland and all the thousands of acres there," said Mark-Viverito.
The pier's rehabilitation is not supposed to begin for two years, but visitors like Valerie Larko, who paints on the pier, are excited.
"If you make it a little easier and they don't have to wear work boots and climb under fences, it's actually going to be better for all the people in the area," said Larko.