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Bridge will link Bronx to Randall’s Island

Randall’s Island is such a tease. There its wetland trails and ball fields sit, a few measly feet from the Bronx, but hardly accessible. No buses run from the Bronx to Randall’s Island. Only plucky pedestrians visit the island via the treacherous RFK Bridge.

But Randall’s Island and the Bronx will soon be joined. Con Edison has erected a steel and concrete bridge that will support a bicycle/pedestrian path to the island.

The path will run underneath the Hell Gate railroad trestle and over the Bronx Kill, linking Randall’s Island to the Bronx Greenway – a series of parks and paths extending from Mott Haven to Hunts Point.

“The bicycle/pedestrian path connecting the Bronx to Randall’s Island is a long-awaited resource that has been in the works for years and is much needed,” said Harry Bobbins of Friends of Brook Park, an environmental advocacy group.

Community organizations like Sustainable South Bronx and The Point have championed the South Bronx Greenway as an urban health initiative. In Mott Haven and Port Morris, green space is scare. Diesel truck fumes shroud the Hunts Point Terminal Market – an enormous food distribution center. It’s no wonder many Bronxites struggle with asthma and obesity.

Randall’s Island, in contrast, is rich with green space and recreational opportunities. A park since 1933, the island boasts a tennis center, a golf course, a playground, picnic areas, ball fields and Icahn Stadium – a world-class track & field facility.

The new bicycle/pedestrian bridge will measure 100 feet long and 20 feet wide. It’s a joint NYC Economic Development Corporation/Con Edison project. Con Edison will run utility cables across the bridge.

“EDC is pleased to move forward with the Randall’s Island connector,” spokeswoman Janel Patterson said. “This project will help residents of the south Bronx access the many amenities of Randall’s Island.”

The Bronx Kill is a narrow strait that separates the Bronx and Randall’s Island. At low tide, it runs practically dry. At high tide, it’s navigable by kayak and canoe. According to Bobbins, the new path and Con Edison bridge will block watercraft trying to navigate the Bronx Kill. Existing utility cables are also a concern.

“The exposed electric infrastructure is dangerous and leaves our city vulnerable to power outages and costly repairs,” Bobbins said. “It would be safer and cheaper if the cables were buried underground.”

EDC has secured project grants from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Federal Highway Administration. Congressman Jose E. Serrano also allocated funds.

Con Edison spokeswoman Sara Banda called the project a win-win. EDC will put the bicycle/pedestrian path out to bid. Construction should begin next year and last through 2010.

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