On Saturday March 3rd the Bronx Sustainable Communities team held an interactive workshop around the University Heights Metro North Station area (see flyer: University Heights). The 3 hour workshop was designed as an opportunity for residents and stakeholders to provide early input that will guide the project outcomes as well as an educational opportunity to better understand the concept of Transit Oriented Development. The events were preceded by community tours, on January 28th, which provided an opportunity for the project team to learn more about the community and the community to understand the project. A number of community members attended the workshop to provide valuable insights which transitioned into high level discussions around access, the pedestrian environment and land use. DCP staff, which consisted of multi-disciplinary planners and urban designers, was able to listen and learn about the communities while also serving as an educational resource.
The workshop was designed to be interactive with a focus on community input and education. It began with a brief presentation which framed the Bronx in a regional perspective, provided existing conditions of the station area and then led into an informative explanation of the principles of Transit Oriented Development (TOD). At the conclusion of the presentation attendees were broken out into groups and rotated to three interactive stations.
DCP Urban Designer Chris Hayner guides community residents through a section of the “pedestrian experience” around the University Heights Station area.
Each station focused on a different aspect of TOD. However, there was intentional overlap that coalesced around the idea of creating “complete communities.” The first station focused on access and included a discussion of how the Metro North Station is integrated into the community; connectivity between multi-modal transit; and the vehicular environment. At the second station, dubbed the “pedestrian environment”, participants were led on a virtual tour through key pedestrian routes from the Metro North Stations via a large scale, detailed map (shown in pictures below). Participants were asked to comment with numerically coordinated stickers on streetscape elements; urban design; pedestrian features; or other likes/dislikes in the built environment. The setup provided an opportunity for staff to guide participants and help them to understand the importance of the various items that make up a healthy pedestrian environment. Finally the third station focused on land use opportunities or “how the community should grow.” After an overview of land use and zoning, the station asked where are there opportunities for density; what land uses does the community need more/less of; and then moved on to a discussion regarding building type through photo boards.
Once the group had completed each of the 3 stations, they were brought back together and each station leader presented a summary of the findings. These findings were then summarized into common themes and back to the idea of how they tie into more complete communities that maximize transit assets.
The workshop was held from 1PM to 4PM at Monroe College, Dean Ted Goldstein welcomed residents to the event and the DCP Director of Planning Coordination, Sarah Goldwyn, provided a regional overview. A diverse mix of residents and community stakeholders provided key input that will be used to form recommendations as the study moves forward. Major issues noted included difficult pedestrian access and isolation around the station area; traffic on Fordham Road from a variety of sources; presence of large vacant parcels; and a desire for community ownership and pride.
Community members discuss the transit and accessibility around the station area.
Our team will be working hard to incorporate all of your comments into a set of recommendations that will reflect the needs of the community. Look for a detailed summary of our workshop on our website.
If you have any comments, or if you are interested in receiving information about the project, please contact us. There will be a number of ways to get involved over the next year, so we look forward to hearing from you.
We thank the hosts, residents and staff who made the events successful. At Monroe College, Dean Ted Goldstein provided welcomed residents and Facilities Manager Alan Mechanic with his staff provided a comfortable atmosphere participants.
We thank all of the attendees from the University Heights community for making the Bronx Sustainable Communities Visioning Forum a huge success!