Every year, as he gets ready to once again celebrate the Hudson River, Cliff Stanton tells himself that this is the year Riverdale finally reacquaints itself with the iconic body of water on its western border.
This year, he might actually be right. And it’s perfect timing, too, because RiverFestBX is back this weekend, and it’s not only bigger, it’s longer.
A day longer, in fact.
“I think of it less as an expansion and more of a movement toward the river,” said Stanton, who organizes RiverFest with the Kingsbridge Riverdale Van Cortlandt Development Corp.
“We’ve always had College Point part of the mix for the festival, but this year, we are really making a concerted effort to make it a focal point, as it should be.”
College Point is the section of Hudson shoreline just across the railroad tracks from the campus of the College of Mount Saint Vincent where the festivities kick off this weekend. While most of RiverFest takes place around the college’s Fonthill Castle and at nearby Marillac Field, the festival’s live events have moved across a pedestrian bridge over the Metro-North line to a small pocket of land with a clear view of the river.
Besides the stage, there will be food, face-painting, and dock access to the Pioneer, a century-old sloop that offers rides up and down the Hudson for a $30 fee.
Passengers on Metro-North and Amtrak trains get the best views of this part of the Hudson, but Stanton has long been an advocate of expanding the greenway into Riverdale, giving this part of the Bronx its first real access to New York City’s primary water artery.
“We use this festival to really try to create an appetite for what should be given in this community,” Stanton said. “The more time people spend down on the water — which is a really rare treat for Riverdale and the northwest Bronx — the more they are going to want to have a way to visit it more often.”
Other boroughs like Manhattan and even Brooklyn have enhanced water access, and now it’s time for the Bronx to be a part of that, Stanton said.
For the past year or so, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — which controls the riverside tracks — have studied what it would take to provide long-term Hudson access. It’s study is complete, and while it might have a price tag above $100 million, it’s still doable.
“The benefits that would come to this community from a waterfront path are innumerable,” Stanton said. “And that’s not just from an economic standpoint, but also recreational and cultural. It’s all about the way the community would feel about itself. With something like a greenway running through it, it would be hard to calculate all the benefits we’d get from that.”
RiverFestBX runs June 9-10 from noon to 6 p.m., both days, at The Mount, 6301 Riverdale Ave. Besides the obvious food and boat rides, there will be two days of live music from performers like Mary Courtney, Seeing Voices and the Riverdale Youth Chorus.
Artists will bring their work to the festival as well, including Katori Walker, Ray Lopez and Dennesa Usher.
There also will be ticketed attractions like miniature golf, fortune telling and a rock wall.
Oh, and there will be a chance to learn as well, with Bronx historian Lloyd Ultan on-hand to share what living on the Hudson River was like in the past.
“It’s all part of a national movement,” Stanton said. “Places all over the country, from L.A. to Altanta to Boston, you name it, have made enormous strides to build access to water.
“It’s just the way cities and communities should be structured. If you got water near you, it should be accessible by all.”