New York landscape architect, Mathews Nielsen tells WAN how a new pedestrian and cycle bridge is transforming lives and connecting people
Designed by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects and opened at the end of November 2015 in New York City, the Randall’s Island Connector (RIC) is a shared-use path that links the South Bronx with recreational facilities on Randall’s Island. This strategic re-purposing of industrial infrastructure is the last of five key projects that comprise the South Bronx Greenway master plan.
Pedestrians and cyclists now have a powerful landscape experience making use of existing transportation infrastructure at a remarkable scale. Previously, access from the Bronx to the 330-acre park on Randall’s Island was arduous and indirect, requiring the traversing of ramps and stairwells along the RFK Triborough Bridge. Today, RIC links local residents and inter-borough cyclists to the many amenities Randall’s Island offers: over 60 sports fields, a golf centre, batting cages, boardwalks, and natural resources areas.
Apart from the obvious health benefits, eight months down the line what other effects is the new Connector having on people’s lives? Signe Nielsen RLA FASLA and Principal of Mathews Nielsen spoke to WAN exclusively, commenting: “RIC is turning around a long-standing reality of isolation. The highway and rail lines have effectively separated Port Morris and Hunts Point from the rest of the South Bronx and Randall’s Island.
“The bridge enables safe passage and broader horizons of opportunity – a true equality project if ever there was one. It also brings people into Port Morris to support a burgeoning arts district and mirco-retailers.”
The quarter-mile link between 132nd Street in the Bronx and Randall’s Island lies underneath the existing Amtrak trestle, still in use. The multi-modal path is remarkable for obtaining approval for an ADA-accessible at-grade crossing over active rail lines by designing a track-triggered gate mechanism that closes the path while freight trains pass through.
WAN asked Nielsen what the Randall’s Island Connector represents to the city of New York and to urban development at large. She explained: “As with all of our South Bronx Greenway projects, RIC is just a “dot” on a map. But this dot is triggering inter-connectivity as evidenced by some recently completed and more planned NYC Department of Transportation bikeways throughout Port Morris to expand safe access to the Connector.
“One has to start somewhere in transforming places so if all one can do is a small piece, one hopes that the small transformation will be meaningful and generate further commitment of resources and community initiatives to establish linkages between the dots.”
Mathews Nielsen has worked on more than 600 projects in New York City and designed over 20 miles of waterfront public spaces. Led by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the Randall’s Island Connector project was executed in partnership with New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and the New York City Department of Transportation.
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