Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Randall's Island Access Obstacles Continue

Bronx - Manhattan 

BUILD IT and they will come. But will they come from the Bronx?

The city unveiled 62 new and renovated athletic fields on Randalls Island last month, but there's no easy route there from the Bronx - at least not yet.

Officials say a new foot bridge and shuttle bus, plus outreach to Bronx schools, could make the island a boogie-down playground.

"Randalls Island is used more by Manhattan folks," said Eric Peterson, deputy administrator for the 273-acre park. "But people in the Bronx should know that Randalls Island is . . . for everyone."

The city Parks Department spent $130 million to rehab the island park, adding new baseball, soccer and cricket fields - and sparking controversy.

In 2008 and last year, the state Supreme Court struck down a deal that would have given 20 private schools special field access for $2.2 million a year.

Private and public schools and community groups now use the park for free, including 18 schools and 14 groups from the Bronx.

Casita Maria summer campers take free lessons through the Randalls Island Sports Foundation.

"Our kids do . . . horseback riding, tennis, minigolf, rugby," said Marta Rivera, program director for the Longwood camp.

But getting to the island from the Bronx - as well as Manhattan - can be tough. A pedestrian ramp off the Triborough Bridge is safe but daunting, said Peterson, because it runs between Randalls and a desolate South Bronx warehouse district.

"Access to Randalls Island is a huge problem, because the public doesn't know how to get there," said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Parks Advocates. "The average kid from the Bronx doesn't walk over to play baseball, which is sad because the Bronx is the closest borough to the island."

But Peterson says a new footbridge at E. 132nd St.  could be the missing link. It would cross the Bronx Kill below the Hell Gate railroad trestle and should be ready by mid-2012, according to the city Economic Development Corp.

Other plans include shuttle service and outreach to schools.

Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan/Bronx), Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. have earmarked $285,000 for shuttle service.

A bus service could run from Randalls Island from Harlem's 125th St. subway station or from schools in Manhattan and the Bronx. The Public School Athletic League already buses students from Harlem on game days.

The Parks Department will promote Randalls among South Bronx schools this fall. It focused on East Harlem last year, said Peterson.

Bronx Charter School for Excellence in Parkchester buses students to Randalls Island.

"Only the [private] schools know," said Principal Charlene Reid. "Public schools need to take advantage of it. It's green space. . . . it's right there."

New York Daily News - August 17, 2010 - By Daniel Beekman

No comments:

Post a Comment