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South Bronx Greenway Takes Shape on Food Center Drive

Planting is underway on the latest segment of the South Bronx Greenway on Food Center Drive. Photo: Angela Tovar/Sustainable South Bronx
Crews tend planter beds on the latest segment of the South Bronx Greenway on Food Center Drive, set to open this fall. Photo: Angela Tovar/Sustainable South Bronx
Planting is underway on the latest segment of the South Bronx Greenway on Food Center Drive. Photo: Angela Tovar/Sustainable South Bronx

A decade in the making, the South Bronx Greenway segment along Food Center Drive in Hunts Point is almost complete. The loop, which will provide a protected path along a busy truck route past some of the region's largest food and beverage distributors, is set to open this fall.

First proposed by the city in the 2005 Hunts Point Vision Plan, the greenway along Food Center Drive will provide a safe link between residential areas of Hunts Point and the neighborhood's waterfront parks.

Currently, Food Center Drive has three lanes in each direction divided by a concrete median. A 2004 traffic study by the city found that 70 percent of truck traffic on the loop moves counter-clockwise, so the street will become one-way under the new design, with both sides of the median carrying counter-clockwise traffic. The project also removes one car lane on the outer loop to make way for the greenway.

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The bikeway on Food Center Drive will help link the residential areas of Hunts Point to its waterfront parks. Map: EDC
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One-way operation enables the elimination of left turns across the greenway. The change, which has been under discussion for years, entailed mapping Food Center Drive as a city street and receiving approvals through the city's land use review process, including from the borough president and the local community board.

Some businesses along Food Center Drive, however, launched a last-ditch effort to stop the one-way change at last week's Bronx Community Board 2 economic development committee meeting.

The project removes one lane from motor vehicles to make way for the greenway. Both sides of Food Center Drive are also being converted to one-way operation. Image: NYC EDC
The project removes one motor vehicle lane to make way for the greenway. Both sides of Food Center Drive are also being converted to one-way operation. Image: NYC EDC
The project removes one lane from motor vehicles to make way for the greenway. Both sides of Food Center Drive are also being converted to one-way operation. Image: NYC EDC

"I don’t have a complaint about the greenway. The greenway is going to be a good thing," said Josephine Infante, President of the Hunts Point Economic Development Corporation. “It would be chaos," she said of the one-way conversion. "And I don’t mean temporary chaos. I foresee a very difficult time."

Although Infante says she was an advocate for one-way conversion in the 1990s, she changed her mind after traffic increased with the opening of new businesses, including the Fulton Fish Market, Anheuser-Busch, and Dairyland.

Shortly before Thanksgiving 2013, the city attempted to convert Food Center Drive to one-way operation. "It didn’t work," Infante said. "Number one, the people were not informed. Number two, it was the busy season." The city quickly reversed its decision, with the intent of returning to one-way operation after completing the greenway construction. The new design includes tweaks to make it easier for drivers to switch between the inner and outer loops, says the city's Economic Development Corporation.

One-way conversion would eliminate left turns across the greenway. Photo: Angela Tovar/Sustainable South Bronx
One-way conversion would eliminate left turns across the greenway. Photo: Angela Tovar/Sustainable South Bronx
One-way conversion would eliminate left turns across the greenway. Photo: Angela Tovar/Sustainable South Bronx

Last Wednesday, the CB 2 economic development committee passed a resolution, 5-0 with two abstentions, reaffirming its commitment to a one-way conversion of Food Center Drive. "These things have been talked about, you know, thrown around for a long time," committee chair Maria Torres told Streetsblog. “It’s almost a decade in the making.”

"The one-way redesign will not only allow a significant reduction in traffic congestion of Food Center Drive but it will also provide a safe pedestrian pathway and a clear link between the waterfront parks in the community," said Angela Tovar, director of sustainable policy and research at Sustainable South Bronx. “For right now, this is the best possible solution and we want to see it move forward.”

EDC says it expects to implement the one-way conversion after construction wraps this fall.

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