On the afternoon May 8th, 2015, a press conference was held in the parking lot of Shandler Recreation Area to announce that $12 million has been allocated for a pedestrian bridge that will span the Major Deegan Expressway (I-87) and finally bring the western and eastern halves of the Park together. The Pedestrian Bridge is one of three bridges that are identified in the 2014 Van Cortlandt Park Master Plan to connect our divided park and undo decades of damage caused by highways that divided the park. The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park have advocated for funding for this first bridge since 1999 and it has been a cornerstone of an overall campaign to secure full funding for the entire Master Plan.
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) will each invest $4 million to construct the bridge, and the remaining $4 million will be paid for with state funds. NYC Councilman Andrew Cohen and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz played key roles in securing the City funding. State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, other members of Assembly Bronx Delegation and State Senator Jeffrey Klein played key roles in securing the State funds.
“The Friends are very excited that the funding for this pedestrian bridge has finally been allocated,” said Christina Taylor, Executive Director, “Once it is built it will make moving around the park for pedestrians much easier and safer. It will help to connect our 20 plus miles of hiking trails and bring us closer to making Van Cortlandt Park the premier hiking destination in NYC.”
The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park are thankful to everyone who stepped up and helped to fund this much needed capital project. We are grateful to Councilman Andrew Cohen for working tirelessly to make this happen over the last year. And we look forward to working with our partners at NYC Parks and the VCP Conservancy to implement the project and continue to improve the Park’s extensive network of hiking trails.
Background: 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 a requirement that DEP study the feasibility of building a pedestrian bridge across the Major Deegan Highway. If it was feasible, the DEP was to transfer the funds to have it built. After many years of the public pushing for it, the DEP hired Philip Habib and Associates to conduct a feasibility study for the Bridge. According to the Plan, the projected cost was $3.6 million (2009). The NYC DEP concluded that the bridge wasn’t feasible because the agency did not have designated capital funding for the project. The Croton Filtration Monitoring Committee members continued to discuss the project with the NYC DEP over the next few years without success in identifying capital funding. In March of 2014, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park joined with Community Boards 7, 8 and 12 and local elected officials to hold a rally demanding that the broken promise to the community be made right. After the rally, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park met with the NYC DEP and Councilman Cohen to begin discussing what could be done to make the bridge a reality. Friends will remain engaged in the project to ensure that it is built in a timely manner.