Today’s news:

Soundview Park wetlands $10 million restoration

Bronx Times

A $10 million dollar ecological restoration of the wetlands and lagoon in Soundview Park, as well as enhancements to the greenspace’s recreation areas, is now underway.

Community advocates and residents of Harding Park and Soundview were on hand for a ground breaking ceremony in the park on Tuesday, November 21. The project has federal, state and city government funding, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New York City Parks Department are partners on the project, which will restore 15 acres of tidal wetland and forest to accommodate bird and marine life, according to the Parks Department.

Joining Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Col. John Boule were Congressman Jose Serrano, Congressman Joseph Crowley, Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, and a representative from Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“I am gratified that this project is going to have such a positive environmental impact,” Serrano said, adding that the federal government took the lead and appropriated funding first, and that the lagoon will be one of the largest restoration projects on the Bronx River.

Because of $4.5 million in federal monies appropriated by Congressman Serrano and matching funds provided by the city and state in the form of $2.2 million in water quality improvements by the state Department of State, $2.2 million in Croton Filtration money from the city, and another $1 million from the Sanitation Department, the project is now moving forward, Benepe said.

“The ecosystem restoration work is a great piece of our overall restoration initiatives throughout the Hudson-Raritan Estuary and specifically in parts of the Bronx,” Boule said. “I’m glad to be working with New York City Parks to help restore the this important ecosystem, but also to improve natural recreational and educational opportunities for residents in the Bronx.”

One of Mayor Bloomberg’s lasting legacies will be to have opened up much of the city’s waterfront to the public so that there is more access than there have been in generations in places other than beaches, Crowley said.

“We are telling Bronx residents that your community and your future matter,” Crowley said. “And, that’s exactly why my good friend Congressman Jose Serrano and I worked hard to bring federal dollars back to the Bronx for this project: to help build a better Bronx for all to enjoy.”

Local residents and park goers can expect to see the ecosystem return to the area, and it is in places like wetlands that life begins, Benepe said.

“Soundview Park has long been home to great recreational amenities, from canoe launches and barbecue areas to playgrounds and ball fields,” Benepe said. “Thanks to our partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers, and support from Cogressmembers Crowley and Serrano, Soundview Park’s wetlands will soon be a more welcoming place for native flora and fauna, and a valuable resource for Bronxites and New Yorkers who wish to learn more about our urban ecosystem.”

For Dion Balcarran, whose house abuts the wetlands area, one of the best parts of the project is the removal of a landfill covering the wetlands where dumping frequently occurred. His house will also boast an even better view because of the project, Balcarran said.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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