When the Mosholu Golf Course driving range was selected as the site for the filtration plant in 1999, the New York City Council approved the project with a number of conditions. One of them was to study the feasibility of building a pedestrian bridge across the Major Deegan Highway (I-87). If it was feasible, the DEP was to transfer the funds to have it built. We believe that this project was added by CM Eisland at the request of a community group to the MOU—which is part of the 1999 ULURP and the original list of projects.
The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, with other community groups, then sued the DEP for trying to build the plant in a park without “alienating” the parkland, and everything was put on hold, including the study. The lawsuit was successful, forcing the Legislature to alienate parkland in 2003. In order to pass this bill in Assemblyman Dinowitz’ district without his permission, the city had to talk the Speaker and the other members of the Bronx Delegation into liking the project by promising an additional $200 million in Bronx park improvements (this turned out not to be additional but in place of other parks projects). The pedestrian bridge was not included in the new list of parks projects because it was in the original ULURP; as an aside, the DEP refused to do a new ULURP stating that the already approved one stood and that they were committed to support those projects. The DEP was asked continuously for a new ULURP. In 2004, the DEP responded to public comments on the Environmental Impact Statement. The original ULURP also stated that the DEP would provide funding for a Forestry Crew for Van Cortlandt Park for 8 years and this promise was kept. The crew will be finished in June of 2015.
A few years ago, instead of transferring funds to the Parks Department to conduct this study, the DEP hired Philip Habib and Associates to do it. In 2010, the Van Cortlandt Park Pedestrian Bridge Feasibility StudyDraft Final Report (Part 1 and Part 2) was presented to the Croton Filtration Monitoring Committee (CFMC). At the May 20th, 2010 meeting, Philip Habib made a presentation. Mr. Habib made it clear that it is legal to build such a bridge, and that it is technically feasible. His firm studied a number of alternatives and found that Alternative E, which crosses the Deegan near the path of the Old Croton Aqueduct, is the best choice. According to the Plan, the projected cost was $3.6 million as of 2009.
Almost everyone in attendance applauded the report, as well as the concept of a pedestrian bridge reconnecting the eastern and western halves of Van Cortlandt Park, which have long been separated by highways. Only the DEP objected, saying they do not have the funds to do this. Yet, somehow, they managed to find $2 billion for the overages for constructing the filtration plant.
In 2010, the CFMC discussed and passed a resolution asking the mayor to transfer the funds for the construction of this pedestrian bridge, as required by the 1999 City Council approval of the project. See Riverdale Press article. The community figured that if Mayor Bloomberg had committed $50 million to restore the Highbridge, the City’s oldest bridge, which connects the Bronx and Manhattan, he would be as committed to the Old Croton Aqueduct path as well. In 2011, DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland sent a letter to CB 12’s Chairman stating why they were not going to keep their promise and fund the bridge.
The recently completed Master Plan for Van Cortlandt Park includes the Pedestrian Bridge using Alternative E (see 4th page of Part 2 of the report) as the location. This shows the NYC Department of Parks is a supporter of this project. Charles McKinney, Principal Urban Designer for NYC Parks, has estimated that adjusting for inflation in construction cost since the feasibility study and assuming that this project would occur in 2017; this project would require $7.5 million in funding.
On a cold, rainy day in March 2014, the Friends joined forces with Bronx Community Board 8 to hold a rally asking the DEP keep to its promise and fund the Pedestrian Bridge. Over 60 people including several elected officials came out to walk from the east and the west to meet in the middle. We received great press coverage including the New York Times, Bronx News 12, CBS, and more.
Here is a general timeline of overall history of the Filtration Plant as a whole.