Urban Kayakers gain victory with Con Ed agreeing to move cable barricade at Bronx Kill by year’s end
June 21, 2011
By Daniel Beekman
The Bronx Kill, a waterway long closed to kayaks and canoes, could become navigable by the end of the year, buoying the spirits of urban paddlers.
Con Edison cables currently block even small boats from using the narrow strait between the South Bronx and Randalls Island.
But under rising pressure from community groups and local officials, the utility has agreed to remove the cables and open the channel, which connects the East River and the Harlem River.
“Four years of tireless advocacy have paid off,” said Harry Bubbins of Friends of Brook Park, calling the Bronx Kill a “tranquil and beautiful waterway.”
The concrete-encased Con Ed cables span the strait near the RFK-Triborough Bridge. Only during low tide can canoes and kayaks squeeze under the cables, and then for no more than an hour, said Bubbins.
“They limit recreation and education by prohibiting the safe and easy passage of canoes and kayaks,” he said.
But Con Ed is working with the city’s Economic Development Corp. to remove the cables.
It recently built a trestle between the South Bronx and Randalls Island that will hold new cables and support a pedestrian and bicycle pathway, helping Bronx residents access Randalls Island.
Con Ed wouldn’t set a time line for removing old cables, but Bubbins expects them to be gone within a year.
“We will continue to coordinate with Con Ed on the removal of the old conduit structure,” said EDC spokesman Kyle Sklerov, calling the pathway a “key link in the city’s greenway system.”
Construction on the pathway is slated to begin next year.
Kayaks and canoes can already float from the East River to the Harlem River using the Hell Gate strait south of Randalls Island. But the route is less sheltered than the Bronx Kill and the water there is more turbulent.
Rob Buchanan, co-founder of the NYC Water Trail Association, called the planned Bronx Kill opening a “significant victory” and an outgrowth of the NYC Water Trail, a 2007 project that mapped local canoe and kayak launches and routes.
“The Bronx Kill is a really unique urban waterway that’s very protected and kind of swirls through a bucolic landscape of green,” said Buchanan. “It connects the Harlem River and the East River in a practical way.”
He said the Water Trail Association hopes locals who learn to boat as kids will protect the city’s waterways when they grow up.
Friends of Brook Park, in Mott Haven, leads kids on paddle tours to promote exercise and awareness of the environment.