“I come here all the time,” he said. “It’s incredible, no?”
Yes, it is.
For years one of the most blighted, abused waterways in the country, the southern end of the Bronx River has been slowly coming back and with it the shoreline that meanders through the South Bronx. Next year, barring further delays, what looks to be an innovative work of green architecture, by the Brooklyn firm Kiss & Cathcart, is slated to open in Starlight Park, a green stretch upriver from Hunts Point Riverside. This summer at the mouth of the river another street-end pocket park, Hunts Point Landing, is opening between a Sanitation Department depot and a food processing plant.
The New York waterfront is changing perhaps more than any other part of the city. For centuries the interests of big money and industry shaped it. These days, notwithstanding dogged efforts by the Economic Development Corporation to kindle business along the waterfronts of Sunset Park in Brooklyn and on Staten Island, the city’s old industrial waterfront is in many places giving way to parks and luxury apartment towers where money still talks, like along the Hudson.
But compared with headline-making projects in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the unexpected renaissance under way along the south end of the Bronx River flies largely below the radar. Park by park a patchwork of green spaces has been taking shape, the consequence of decades of grinding, grass-roots, community-driven efforts. For the environmentalists, educators, politicians, architects and landscape designers involved, the idea has not just been to revitalize a befouled waterway and create new public spaces. It has been to invest Bronx residents, for generations alienated from the water, in the beauty and upkeep of their local river.