DEP breaks its promise for Deegan footbridge

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The Department of Environmental Protection claims it has no money to build a pedestrian bridge across the Major Deegan Expressway in Van Cortlandt Park, but community officials say a decade-old land use agreement compels it to provide the funding.

In 1999, the city council approved a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application by the DEP to site the Croton Water Filtration Plant underneath the Mosholu Golf Course in Van Cortlandt Park. The council approved the plan with a list of provisions, including that the Department of Parks and Recreation study the feasibility of a footbridge across the Major Deegan Expressway in Van Cortlandt Park.

If the study determined the bridge was feasible, the DEP was to give Parks money to build it.

Parks commissioned a study, to be completed by 2002, but which was released in 2010. Philip Habib and Associates determined that it was feasible to build the bridge and outlined three options, ranging in cost from $3 to $6 million, for where it could be built.

The study concluded that the best option would cost $3.6 million and connect the southeast section of Vannie with the west side of the park and also reconnect the historically significant Old Croton Aqueduct trail, which was severed by the construction of the Deegan in 1956.

But at some point, the Deegan footbridge got lost in the shuffle while the cost of the filtration plant tripled to over $3 billion.

“Right now it seems like the poor stepchild that’s not getting the attention,” Robert Fanuzzi, chair of Community Board 8, said in a recent interview.

At an Oct. 19 meeting of the Croton Facility Monitoring Committee — a body created as part of the same city council approval of the filtration plant as the promise of a footbridge study — DEP Assistant Commissioner Mark Lanaghan said there was no money for the footbridge.

“There’s no funding for it now, there’s no real promise of funding,” he said.
The provisions in the ULURP include forest maintenance, full restoration of the golf course, as well as other playground and ballfield renovations inside Vannie.
Mr. Lanaghan said the DEP does not have money beyond the $200 million it promised for Bronx parks projects in order to attain state legislature approval in 2004 for placing the filtration plant on parkland. 

Only $150 million of that money has been allocated and 43 out of 72 projects that were supposed to be completed by 2009 were finished as of January.
But detractors contend that the DEP’s promise of a footbridge to get ULURP approval in 1999 preceded those commitments and that it should be kept.
To make good on the footbridge promise, the Croton Filtration Monitoring Committee, headed by Father Richard Gorman of Community Board 12, asked the DEP to tap into $30 million in savings from its June decision not to position a force main along Sedgwick Avenue (or on a nearby route).

Mr. Lanaghan said the commissioner did not have an official response ready, but when pressed by Mr. Fanuzzi, he said the saved funds could not be transferred.
“We have to find out how to enforce that [ULURP] agreement,” Mr. Fanuzzi said at the meeting.

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