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Products > Publications Printer Friendly Version
Plan For The Bronx Waterfront cover Plan For The Bronx Waterfront, 1993. ($5.00)
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The Plan for the Bronx Waterfront, a part of New York City's Comprehensive Waterfront Plan issued in August 1992, presents detailed studies of the borough's four reaches, or waterfront study areas.

The Bronx waterfront is highly varied in both physical character and land use, reflecting the distinct qualities of the different water bodies in and around the borough. To the west, the Hudson River forms a wide majestic valley overlooked by one of the city's most impressive natural districts. At Spuyten Duyvil, the Hudson meets the Harlem River which runs in a narrow valley spanned by a series of landmark bridges between upper Manhattan and the Bronx. Upland uses on the Bronx side of the Harlem River include one of the city's premier state parks, the Bronx Community College with its landmark Hall of Fame for Great Americans, Yankee Stadium, and a variety of residential and industrial uses. The very narrow Bronx Kill, between the South Bronx and Randall's Island, empties into the wide expanse of the East River which is dotted by North and South Brother islands. The upland contains the largest industrial zone in the city. Bisecting the borough, the Bronx River starts in the north as a narrow stream etched in a deep valley and broadens to a wide river as it approaches the East River. The river runs along the country's first "parkway", through a botanical and a zoological garden, and through an industrial zone. East of the Bronx River, the shoreline touches the East River, the heads of Westchester Creek and the Hutchinson River, Eastchester Bay, and Long Island Sound where City Island and Hart Island are located.

Access to the sea and the availability of inland routes determined the location and nature of many of the borough's earliest developments. For example, construction in 1693 of the first bridge from Manhattan -- the King's Bridge -- spurred development of Kingsbridge, one of the earliest settlements in the borough. Fishing and boat building were perhaps the earliest uses, particularly along the Harlem River and on City Island. The later addition of rail lines along the Harlem River and the southern shore led to the development of Port Morris and Hunts Point as major maritime and industrial areas.

Great scenic beauty along much of the Bronx waterfront created ideal settings for recreational uses dating back a century or more. During the 1800s, elegant hotels and parks were built along both sides of the Harlem River and a steam boat ran excursions from Manhattan on weekends. The river became one of the country's leading rowing centers, boasting more than a dozen elaborate boat houses by the end of the 19th century. In the eastern Bronx and on City Island, summer residential colonies and marinas developed around the early fishing and boat building villages. Summer residences were later converted to year-round housing and low-rise suburban style developments soon followed. In the western part of the Bronx, residential estates like Wave Hill began to spring up along the shores of the Hudson River from the early 1800s, and development of large apartment houses followed construction of subway lines along the Harlem River early in this century.

Waterfront uses in the Bronx continue to evolve today, presenting new opportunities to preserve natural conditions, provide greater public access, and increase the borough's employment base and housing supply.

The Comprehensive Waterfront Plan designates the eastern part of the borough along the Upper East River as one of the city's three Special Natural Waterfront Areas where preservation of natural coastal resources is the paramount goal. Adding further protection to the borough's natural waterfront, the state has designated the lower Hudson River, including the mouth of the Harlem River and North and South Brother islands, and the Pelham Bay Park wetlands as Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats.

To achieve the comprehensive plan's public access goals for the Bronx, the reach studies that follow identify numerous opportunities to connect residents to their waterfronts, particularly in those areas that presently have little, if any, waterfront access. The wealth of existing public waterfront parks in the Bronx tends to be concentrated in the eastern and northwestern parts of the borough where population densities are relativelylow. Public open space along the waterfront is much more limited in areas with the highest population densities. Consequently, the plan places major emphasis on promoting public access in the more under-served parts of the Bronx, although new or expanded public access opportunities are proposed throughout the borough. In addition, an 80-mile greenway/bikeway system planned for the entire borough would greatly expand access to the waterfront. The plan recommends more than doubling the existing waterfront pathways for the exclusive use of pedestrians and cyclists. Nearly half of the greenway/bikeway system would be close to the borough's coast along waterfront access ways and nearby local streets.

Along the working waterfront, some areas, like those along the northern Harlem River, have lost much of their viability; others, like Port Morris, remain vital and offer promise for greater development. A rail-to-truck transfer facility being developed in the former Harlem River Yard is expected to become a major generator of new industrial uses. The new Oak Point rail link, which will serve both the Harlem River Yard and the Hunts Point market and peninsula, will improve a rail-freight connection between New York and points north and west.

Applying the citywide criteria for identifying potential waterfront redevelopment sites to the Bronx, the plan recommends that approximately 40 acres on six vacant or underutilized sites be redeveloped for residential or mixed use. Four of the sites are in manufacturing districts and would require rezoning to permit housing development. All would incorporate public open spaces at the shoreline.

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