Vol. 16, No. 7   March  27 - April 9, 2003



     
 

Op-ED
A Few Ideas to Further Fuel Borough's Resurgence

By James Rausse

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, in his State of the Borough Address on Feb. 26 presented a vision of the Bronx that a decade ago would have been a pipe dream. The borough is a long way from being where it should be, but it's getting there. Tens of thousands of new housing units have been constructed, neighborhoods are bustling, and commercial districts are beginning to blossom. Carrion's address inspired me to suggest some ideas I think will contribute to our borough's resurgence.

The Bronx' Park Avenue 
It is widely recognized that the Cross Bronx Expressway accelerated the devastation of the south Bronx. Development of parkland over the Cross Bronx is the least that can be done to compensate for the displacement of tens of thousands of people. This would not only reconnect neighborhoods, it would bring open space to an area with some of the nation's highest asthma rates and the city's sparsest concentration of parkland. The effect of thousands of cars releasing carbon monoxide would be somewhat mitigated by lush grass and trees. There is no utilization of air rights over the Metro North tracks running through the Bronx. Why not develop a park mall that would be a beacon to some of the borough's most dilapidated and poorest neighborhoods? The new parks would raise property values and quality-of-life in these neighborhoods.

Redesign of the Grand Concourse 
Every time I look at the Grand Concourse, I wonder if it really should have been named the Bland Concourse. The roadway itself is a wide, gray unattractive thoroughfare that seems to divide the borough instead of being its centerpiece. I was thrilled to hear that there are plans to go ahead with redesigning this once beautiful roadway. Preliminary plans that I have seen call for reducing the Concourse to three lanes on each side (no "express" or "local" lanes) and a park mall in the middle. This is a good start. But I'd like to see an even grander vision. Regular traffic should be reduced to two lanes in each direction. The remaining area would include a bike lane and a walkway. In the center would be a bus lane, exclusively for the Bx1 and Bx2, which are large buses that have high ridership and sometimes cause traffic problems. Making separate bus lanes would allow for efficient traffic flow in the two side lanes.

The redevelopment of the Grand Concourse should not only occur above ground, but below as well. Back in the summer of 1996, I took the D train to my internship in Manhattan. While I waited at the 205th Street station, a sign said the Concourse line was being rebuilt and would be completed by October 1996. Looking around me and at the subsequent stops on my journey, I doubted this was going to happen. This was confirmed as the signs changed to "The Grand Concourse helped build the Bronx, now we help rebuild the Concourse D line…this takes time, please be patient." What I didn't know was that it would require seven years of patience as only one-and-a-half stations have been rebuilt (Tremont and part of 161st). In contrast, the Grand Central and Museum of Natural History stops were completed in only a couple of years. Not only were they finished quickly, but with tremendous detail. Now you might say those stops are of vital importance, so of course they were rushed. But 161st Street still isn't finished, even though it is identified as one of the system's busiest stops. I am tired of waiting at the 205th Street station watching it crumble and wondering how much lead and asbestos poisoning I am being exposed to. Bronx commuters deserve fair treatment, not a decade of delays. I fear that action will only come when part of a station collapses and someone gets seriously hurt.

Hip Hop Hall of Fame 
As the Bronx continues to grow in fine cultural institutions, one thing has stumped me: why have there been no proposals for a Museum of Hip Hop or a Hip Hop Hall of Fame?

Rap music wouldn't be anything if it weren't for the Bronx, particularly the south Bronx. Hip Hop is the fastest growing musical art form of the last 15 years, yet there are no institutions dedicated to its history, masters and legends. The ideal place for such an institution would be 149th Street, a resurging commercial area historically tied to Hip Hop. That street's new restaurants, bars, institutions and a future hotel would benefit from what is surely to be a spectacular attraction that would draw hundreds of thousands of people. The only proposal I have heard so far for a Hip Hop Hall of Fame is from Mount Vernon. Now, seriously, are we going to let the art form this borough created be forever glorified in a New York City suburb?

James Rausse is a Norwood resident.

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