Currently, the Harlem River is a massively underutilized resource for the city, primarily depriving residents of upland communities such as Morris Heights, University Heights, and Port Morris of vast stretches of waterfront due to inadequate access and amenities. Obstacles such as the Metro North’s Hudson Line, the Major Deegan Expressway, and ridges along the water block paths towards the water, and create undesirable and dangerous conditions for most public uses of nearby land. These challenges have prevented heavy industrialization and discouraged construction of high-rise luxury residential towers on the river’s edge, and contributed to the current scenery of vacant plots of land and underserved parks. Harlem River Working Group was formed in 2008 from a cadre of community organizations with the goal of transforming this land into a recreational, economic and scenic resource for adjacent neighborhoods. In order to do so, work had to be done piece by piece.
Over the last few years, Trust for Public Land and other organizations have put much effort into purchasing future parkland at Depot Place, High Bridge, and Regatta Park Greenway. In conjunction with the South Bronx Greenway and others, these pieces of parkland are deliberately coalescing into a major green web throughout the Bronx and Upper Manhattan, providing much-needed vegetation and recreational space to our city’s most asthma-stricken and obese populations. The health benefits that once escaped residents of New York City’s “concrete jungle” are now becoming a reality, but this is dependent upon continuous progress. Thus, a comprehensive community vision of the Harlem River is necessary.