West Farms Rapids Park: a history

A riverside park in the central Bronx is the perfect place to reflect on local history.  Join the campaign to get the latest West Farms Rapids Park renovation completed because it was over three years behind schedule at the time this article was posted.  A brief history can be read at Outdoor Afro.  Read below if you want the extended story complete with reproduced texts from varied authorities on the Bronx River and the neighborhood of West Farms!  The illustration below by Marcy Kass was made when the park was nearing completion in its first phase back in 1980.  Other images in the main text were taken at that time.  The pictures that follow (beginning with Works Cited) show the park stalled in development during its third and current renovation.

BXRR Image from 1980

West Farms Rapids Park, a history

2 Acres 1

The West Farms community is one of many historic settlements along the Bronx River, which is the only freshwater river in New York City. Measuring 23 miles, this blue corridor has been central to the life of the Bronx since pre-colonial days. It winds its way from the heights of Westchester County to meet the East River at Hunt’s Point. Called Aquehung (River of High Bluffs) by the Mohegan Indians who fished and hunted along its banks, the Bronx River derives its name from Jonas Bronck (1600-1643), a Swedish sea captain who settled the mainland in 1639 as the Bronx’s first European resident. Profitable opportunities such as fur trading attracted early European settlers to the Bronx River Valley 2 and the local economy grew through the 1600s and 1700s. Farming and cottage industries 3 developed and flourished until the Revolutionary War, 4 when the river became a shifting battle line between American Patriots and British Loyalists. 5 The De Lancey family estate, now part of the Bronx Zoo, 6 is well documented as a site of 18th century tensions. 7 American troops gained control of the area when British Loyalists evacuated in 1783. 8

Creating W. Farms RapidsDuring the era between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 9 and again in the 1840s during the construction of the New York & Harlem Railroad, factories sprang up along the Bronx River shores, which harnessed the current to power manufacturing. At one time, at least 12 mills stood between North Castle and West Farms. 10 The Bolton Bleachery operated for many decades on the same site where the Lorraine Hansberry Academy is now situated. 11 These industries brought both prosperity and pollution as they dumped their refuse into the waterfront. In 1896, a report by the New York State Legislature stated that the river had become an “open sewer” and appointed a commission to remedy the problem. After intensive study, the commission recommended that the city purchase the land alongside this waterway and transform it from an unregulated zone of farms, slums and factories into a landscaped nature preserve. America’s first parkway was thus born, 12 allowing the city and state to control activity along the river and providing motorists, bicyclists and strollers with a pleasant venue for recreation and scenic trips.13

'79 or 1980 creation of West Farms RapidsThe Bronx River Parkway (completed in 1925) protected the watershed as it entered the Bronx Park. 14 However, the Bronx River did not receive dedicated ecological restoration south of East 180th Street until 1974, when Ruth Anderberg founded the Bronx River Restoration Project (BXRR) on the inspiration of then Bronx Police Chief Anthony V. Bouza, who had already launched an intergovernmental dialogue to clean the river. 15 West Farms Rapids (formerly Bronx River Park, originally Restoration Park) marks the genesis of those efforts. 16 The rock-stuffed rubber-tire retaining walls here are a landmark commemorating 1980, when this place became a park. 17 Around this time, BXRR also created the nearby Bronx River Art Center (BRAC) 18 and River Garden, 19 and published the Bronx River Restoration Master Plan, which advocated the ecological revival of the whole waterway, complete with a continuous linear park from the Kensico Dam to its mouth at the East River.

Late 1970s construction of West Farms RapidsMany hands contributed to these early efforts, including teen-aged and adult workers and community leaders from Lambert Houses, like BXRR treasurer Marcel Woolery, Jr. They were funded by city programs like Summer Youth Employment, Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), local elected officials and Phipps Houses. Other organizations dedicated resources for construction, programming and maintenance. 20 In the 1990s, local residents and workers formed a new coalition to revive this site. Called the West Farms Friends of the Bronx River, members included Michelle Williams, Bernard Tim Johnson, Nessie Panton, Andre Williams, Juanita Carter, Perquida Williams, Sebert Harper and others. They organized riverfront clean-ups, planted the original butterfly garden 21 and worked with the Parks Department to install picnic tables for family recreation. 22 In 1997, HPD gave the city jurisdiction over this park 23 and by 2008 the Parks Department owned it. Also in 1997, Partnerships for Parks convened the Bronx River Working Group, comprised of 20 founding partners, including Phipps Community Development Corporation, BXRR and the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality. This collaboration culminated in 2001 with the creation of the Bronx River Alliance. In 2000, The Transportation Equity Act allocated $770,800 to renovate the park. 24 This mid-Bronx node of the Bronx River Greenway broke ground again in 2008 to improve safety and enhance multi-modal access, featuring a canoe launch, a new butterfly garden, an amphitheater and direct access to East Tremont Avenue where Bronx Street was absorbed into this park and de-mapped. 25 The Bronx River Alliance and community partners continue to maintain this remarkably beautiful and historic site.  [End of history summary].

 WFR Park Circa 1981

 Notes

 1 At the time of this writing, the temporary construction sign at West Farms Rapids states the site is 2 acres, which likely includes the contiguous riverbed. The sign for West Farms Rapids, circa 2000, stated that the park measures 0.505 acres.

2 The Bronx River Alliance’s “Bronx River Historical Sign” summarizes the economic underpinnings of European settlement in West Farms, including fur trading.

3 Isaac Valentine operated a blacksmith business serving passersby on the Boston Post Road, a street which is documented widely as having had other cottage industries typical of well-traveled intra-settlement thoroughfares of that time. (Ultan, Legacy 4).  The Bronx Historian: Newsletter of the Bronx County Historical Society (Vol. 12, No. 4, March -April 1990) features a front page story, “Milestones in the Industrial Development of the Bronx.” This essay states:

Grist and saw mills, which were the Bronx’s first industries, were built in 1680 by John Richardson and Edward Jessup on the Bronx river at West Farms. The grist mill ground the grain into flour while the saw mill provided the staves for the barrels to hold the flour. Then, between 1794 and 1797, a bridge over the Harlem River [at Third Avenue and East 135th Street initiated by Lewis Morris, son of his namesake father who signed the Declaration of Independence] was built spurring the growth of stagecoach lines and eventually industrial and commercial opportunities. One such industry began as the Bolton Bleachery which opened for business in 1820.

4 These four sentences are almost literal excerpts from the original Bronx River Park Historical Sign of 2000.

5 Hermalyn’s “A History of the Bronx River” offers one of many illustrations about how battle lines and held territories shifted during the American Revolutionary War. Additional insights are offered in “The Bronx River Valley and the Revolutionary War” section of 300 Years of Life Along the Bronx River Valley (Greenburgh and Scarsdale).

6 Gardner elucidates the former site of the De Lancey estate in his essay “Portraits of a Bronx Aristocrat:” “When [Peter De Lancey and Elizabeth Colden] married in 1737 [Peter] took her to live at De Lancey’s Mills [-saw and grist-] on the Bronx River near West Farms in lower Westchester (a site now in Bronx Park near 181st Street).” He continues on a later page, “By the end of the Revolution the widowed Mrs. De Lancey had witnessed not only the destruction of her old home at the Mill on the Bronx River but also the plundering of her house at Union Hill (a site now in the Bronx Zoological Gardens).” The article continues:

During the American Revolution her sons served with the British forces: Steven, John, Oliver, Warren and James – all except Peter, who was said to have been killed in a duel in South Carolina in 1771. Her daughters Jane and Suzanna were loyalists; but Alice married Ralph Izzard, a rich young man from the South who sided with the American forces. Her son James became famous, or infamous, as the leader of De Lancey’s Light Horse [alternately De Lancey’s Cowboys], a band of British raiders who terrorized and plundered that unhappy territory in southern Westchester known as “The Neutral Ground.” He was known to the American forces that tried to capture him as “The Colonel of the Cowboys” because of his success in stealing cattle to provision the British army. After he was listed in the Act of Attainder, he was called “The Outlaw of the Bronx.”

7 Many sources confirm that there were multiple American Revolutionary War Battles and camps in the Bronx River watershed and that land claims by the British and Americans were contended throughout the war. Torries: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War by Allen and Ultan’s Legacy of the Revolution are among such works.

8 Bronx River Park sign (2000).

9 We learn about how the disruption in trade created by the War of 1812, wherein the United States declared war on Great Britain, created a market for locally-produced manufactured goods supplied by new factories established on the Bronx River at West farms in Ultan’s The Northern Borough: A History of the Bronx.

10 Bronx River Park sign (2000).

11 A 1916 map by architect Kenneth M. Murchison, “The Plan of the Bronx International Exposition,” taken together with e-mail correspondence on this historical point between Stephen DeVillo and the author, are reinforced with the entry about the Lorraine Hansberry Academy in the AIA Guide to New York of 2000, which describes the site: “A cast-concrete structural frame and dark, rough-ribbed concrete block infill achieves their neat and dramatic geometry. Its site was once the [Bolton, later Bronx] Bleachery, an industry well-remembered because of its negative impact upon the purity of the adjacent Bronx River.” The historical reference to the name change of this facility is cited in The Birth of the Bronx: 1609-1900 by the Bronx County Historical Society, which features an illustration of the factory and states on page 138:

The Bronx Company stands at E. 177th Street and Bronx River, West Farms, in 1890. Once known as the Bolton Bleachery when it was part of the village of Bronxdale, the firm moved south along the river when New York City condemned the Bronxdale property for the establishment of the Bronx Zoo. The Bleachery then occupied this former factory of the Bronx Wool and Leather Co.

12 Timothy Davis’ “The Rise and Decline of the American Parkway” from The World Beyond the Windshield puts the Bronx River Parkway in a historical context of American road-making as the first parkway.

13 This paragraph is excerpted from the original Bronx River Park sign from 2000 with new details of social and design history edited into it.

14 The “Map Showing Bronx River Parkway” on page 22 from the 1922 Report of the Bronx River Parkway Commission clearly indicates what everyone involved with the River experiences: a principle mission of the parkway’s creation was to address aesthetic, zoological and hygiene concerns within Bronx Park, where the Bronx Zoo (New York Zoological Society) is located. It is also no accident that this gift of the City Beautiful Movement came about not long after the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, which showed American designers, builders and leaders that neoclassical principles of city planning could address some of the misfortunes of unplanned growth in America’s increasingly industrialized cities. Nevertheless, the specific inspiration for the parkway came from Inverness, Scotland, where Norwood resident, NYS Assemblyman and New York Zoological Society Board of Governors member William White Niles, wrote the following in 1929:

In [1902], I went abroad with Dr. [William T.] Hornaday, the director of the New York Zoological Society. He had occasion to visit Mr. [Andrew] Carnegie at Skiebo Castle and I accompanied him as far as Inverness, where I remained for three days while he was visiting the Laird of Skiebo. Having nothing better to do in his absence, I spent most of my time in walking about the vicinity, and on one occasion, coming upon a little park which bordered the River Ness beyond the limits of the City, I followed the river down through the city, and was greatly surprised to find the water as it issued from the limits of the city as clean, so far as appearance went, which was the only test that I applied, as it was when I entered the city. My astonishment was due to the fact that I had rather assumed that a stream could not go through a built up community without being defiled. I was familiar with many streams running through cities in America, but recalled no instance in which the sewerage and much of the refuse of the city was not dumped into the stream and its banks devastated and shorn of all beauty and in most instances, disfigured and rendered offensive by public dumps, dilapidated structures, coal yards and other unattractive activities. When I returned home I happened, on one occasion, to be walking through the northerly part of Bronx Park along the Bronx River and continued northward beyond the Parks’ boundaries still along the River, and was distressed to see the conditions prevailing there, which had never before impressed me so unfavorably. I determined to make an effort to see if something could not be done to improve matters. I was at the time a member of the Executive Committee [(1897-?)] of the Board of Governors of the New York Zoological Society, who, it seemed to me, should be interested in the project because of the fact that the Bronx River formed a most interesting and picturesque feature of the Zoological Park, and the serious contamination of the water would be most prejudicial to the Park. In 1904, if my memory serves me right, we had a very dry summer and the water in the stream was much reduced in size and the pollution became more and more apparent. Director Hornaday had his attention called to the matter by a serious disorder that developed among the water fowl, who were permitted to use the river, and on examining into the cause of this disorder, he became convinced it arose from the polluted condition of the river. He then very ardently championed my proposition that we should take steps to remedy the existing conditions, and so impressed Mr. [Madison] Grant [Columbia University-trained lawyer and member of the Boone and Crocket Club (elite hunters)] that he finally said that if I would draft a bill to be presented to the Legislature that he would support it and do his best to procure the support of the Zoological Society.  During this period I discussed the matter with Dr. [Nathaniel Lord] Britton of the Botanical Society and found him also interested and obtained the assurance of his support…

Niles already had a history of working a bill through the New York State Legislature to improve this part of the city. We learn in Gathering of Animals that he introduced a bill in Albany drafted by Andrew Haswell Green that created the New York Zoological Society (Bronx Zoo) while he was a New York State Assemblyman to the North Side (when the lands that became Bronx County west of the Bronx River were still an extension of New York County). Niles became interested in establishing a new zoological park for New York – a small Central Park Zoo already existed – inspired by many he had seen in Europe, probably including London and Berlin examples. His bill passed in Albany, with amendments, on April 26, 1895 (Bridges 7-10). A substantial stone and concrete monument to W.W. Niles can found at Bronx Boulevard and East 226th street, which was built in 1938. His fellow Zoo founder and partner in the Parkway project, Madison Grant—who believed in racial hierarchy—of Manhattan, was not mentioned there.

15 A 1974 article in the Catholic News, among many concurrent writings, clearly establishes Bronx Police Chief Anthony V. Bouza as the initiator of efforts to clean the Bronx River south of the Bronx Zoo, which inspired Ruth Anderberg to a loftier ambition: creating a non-profit to “restore” the river along its full length. Bouza is quoted to have framed the purpose of this effort as a way “to symbolize the need for every citizen to do something about his environment” (1974). The Bronx River Master Plan of 1980 published by the Bronx River Restoration states on its first leaf: “Dedicated to the New York City Police Department, its Bronx Borough Commanders and Bronx Community Affairs Section. They started the whole thing in the first place and have been supportive ever since.

16 “West Farms Rapids (formerly Bronx River Park, originally Restoration Park) marks the genesis of those efforts,” is a statement derived from the following sources and confirmed elsewhere. The concept of mini-parks (new small parks for residential and commercial districts co-sponsored and often designed with non-municipal partners) exploded onto the New York City landscape during two mayoral terms of John V. Lindsay (1966 – 1973). When planning and building this park between 1978 and 1980, “Bronx River Restoration” was the working name of the organization. Their self-published and self-printed newsletters called the Bronx River Current trace this process. The Spring 1980 edition of the Current included a dedicated back page, “Park Name Contest” form, complete with an illustration of the site, including: the stone bridge over East 180th Street, abstractly rendered mid-rise buildings exactly where the Lambert Houses are, and a park enjoyed by human figures in active and passive recreation on the west bank of the Bronx River. We learn how and what name was assigned to the park in the Autumn 1980 edition of the Bronx River Current, as written by Norma Torres:

Searching for a name for a new park can be a complex and surprising activity. BXRR Conducted a park naming contest for several months before arriving at a suitable name for the new mini-park now being completed by BXRR at E. 179th Street and the Bronx River. Our efforts were aided by more than 60 suggestions made by the children of the neighboring areas. After much discussion the jury agreed on Restoration Park as the best suited name. Those involved in the decision-making process included Edwin Martinez, District Manager of CPB #6, Sonia Edwards also of CPB #6, the staff of BXRR and a number of community residents. The winning name was the brainstorm of young Avanti Mosalez, age 7, of Lambert Houses. In investigating how he came to select the name we found out that Avanti had inquired as to the meaning of “Restoration.” After much thought he decided that making the Bronx River new again was good, and Restoration Park a suitable name. Appropriately enough, young Avanti enjoys swimming, karate and going to parks. Thank you, Avanti, for helping us find a name of great dignity.

I call this park the genesis of those efforts for three reasons: a) Barbara Stewart’s “A River Rises” 2000 article in the New York Times recounts the beginning of concern for the Bronx River in West Farms by Ruth Anderberg; Stewart wrote:

Ms. Anderberg, a small, animated woman with a gift for storytelling, first saw the river’s trash-choked southern part on a bus to the 1964 World’s Fair. I thought: ‘What a shame! What a crime!’” she said. “Up at the botanical garden, the river was so beautiful and placid. Down there, it was a disgrace.

Through two interviews I conducted with Ms. Anderberg, confirmed by her Story Corps interview of 2008, I know her to have waited for that same bus where a contemporary bus from Flushing, Queens continues to make a loop here at East 180th Street, almost between River Park (separated from the Bronx Zoo only by a fence) and what has evolved into West Farms Rapids (Story Corps is a national nonprofit dedicated to recording and collecting stories of everyday people: http://www.storycorps.org). b) A New York Daily News article from 1976 depicts Anderberg telling the Bronx River Restoration story on the east bank of the Bronx River with IRT tracks in the near background and the back of what would become the Bronx River Art Center visibly occupying the frame between herself and the west bank, and c) “Refuse in Bronx Restoring River” from the New York Times in 1979 captures a moment when the signature rock-filled tire retaining wall at West Farms Rapids was being installed while west bank features were also in development.  The accompanying photo by Robert M. Klein for the New York Times captures the energy of this site.

17 “Restoration’ Mini Park Ground-Breaking Held,” a 1979 article in the pages of the Bronx Press-Review supports other documents confirming the authenticity of Bronx River Restoration’s invitation to their naming ceremony for Restoration Park at noon on Saturday, August 9, 1980, as part of a two-day River Festival.

1980 poster @ W. Farms

18 The timeline establishing when the Bronx River Art Center (BRAC) was developed is found easily in numerous documents including the 1980 Bronx River Restoration Master Plan, which shows that the Center and its programming was launched before the Restoration Park was complete, as indicated in The Bronx River Current from Autumn 1980. The fact that BRAC was formed from Bronx River Restoration’s efforts is found easily by reviewing the history page of Bronx River Art Center’s website, which stated as of Nov. 11, 2010: “Bronx River Art Center was founded… to bring professional arts programming to a culturally underserved population. For more than twenty years (including several years of arts programming under the umbrella of the first Bronx River Restoration project).” The BRAC had a number of provisional names in the early days and so the date they give as their founding is the year they formalized into a stand-alone non-profit with the name we know today, whereas they had been known by at least four other names before, including the Environmental Arts Center (See Bronx River Current Autumn 1980 for that early name).

19 River Garden is an official Parks and Recreation of the City of New York Community Garden at Devoe Avenue and East 180th Street that was started by Bronx River Restoration. Bronx River Alliance Board Member and former South Bronx Open Space Task Force (SBOSTF) student-volunteer Dart Westphal e-mailed the author that this place was established after 1978 and that garden supporters included Phipps, neighborhood residents from the east side of the river, and the former SBOSTF. River Garden made the pages of the Bronx Press-Review in 1987 with an article entitled “Students Launch River Cleanup.” Part of it states:

Eight High School students and two teachers, working under the direction of Bronx River Restoration staff, spent the afternoon scraping and painting fencing, cutting back overgrowth and removing litter from a terrace above the river [at East 180th street]. The area adjoins Bronx River Community Garden [now River Garden] and overlooks Lambert Houses and Restoration Park, one of the Bronx River Restoration’s first projects.

20 Data was collected during the author’s two interviews of Ruth Anderberg on Feb 21, 2006 and October 18, 2010. Among rank-and-file summer workers, a number of leaders hailed from Lambert. Marcel Woolery Jr. of Lambert was a long-serving treasurer and one-time assistant treasurer to Bronx River Restoration, and was active as late as 2000. Woolery (now deceased) is cited as celebrating progress alongside Ruth Anderberg at a Bronx River celebration in the Snuff Mill of the New York Botanical Garden, as documented in City News (March 6, 1999), wherein Michael Horowitz wrote of him in the article, “Con Ed, Activists Celebrate Progress in Bronx River Cleanup:”

Woolery, a tenant leader at the time who lived at Lambert Houses in the West Farms area at the time, recruited youngsters for the effort at the urging of Anderberg. “I remember how we got into the river, with our hip-length boots, and cleaned out portions of the river by hand,” Woolery noted.  “We went to an Environmental Education Center in the Poconos to learn how to clean up the river.”  Woolery added, “I remember my father joining us in cleaning up the river time and again.  [Anderberg related in her personal interview that Woolery, Sr. had been an excellent foreman and remarkable worker for BXRR over many years even though he had already retired from his career as a food processing worker in Manhattan.  Meanwhile, Woolery Jr.’s wife and children became reliable workers with BXRR].  He lives in the Southern Boulevard area.  He’s 91 years old now, and he only recently stopped working on the river.

Other Lambert residents like Nessie Panton and Juanita Carter live or have lived in Lambert Houses. There is a street named “Ma Carter’s Way” on Bryant Avenue between East 180th and East 181st Streets, providing passage between West Farms Veteran’s Cemetery and part of the Lambert Houses complex, with a Baptist church at the northern end. Avanti Mosalez, who gave the park its first name, also lived at Lambert too. It is important to recognize that Lambert provided leaders as well as workers.

21 The introduction and subsequent care of a butterfly garden by members of the West Farms Friends of the Bornx River is not exclusive of credit due to Phipps CDC because many, although not all, members were also Phipps employees, like Perquida Williams and Sebert Harper, who had different opportunities to aid this work from both personal, civic and agency-based participation standpoints. The exact planting date for this butterfly garden is captured on page 27 of Photographic History of Drew Gardens under the heading, “Saturday, October 24, 1998 – Fourth Annual West Farms Clean-Up.” The accompanying narrative states, “Workers piled up bags and bags of litter, planted a butterfly garden and helped build a rock garden.”

22 The existence of the West Farms Friends of the Bronx River is documented in Partnerships for Parks literature from the late 1990s about the Bronx River; Partnerships for Parks Bronx River BiWeekly, (6.8.99 & 6.22.99) posts the following event: “July 10. Bronx River Waterfall Tour. Join Save the Sound and West Farms Friends of the Bronx River for a scenic tour of waterfalls and gardens…” The names of the members were supplied during a January 2011 interview the author conducted with Miss Nessie Panton and later confirmed by Perquida Williams of Bronx Community Board Number 6. Miss Panton is variously distinguished as a force for good in West Farms in many relevant roles, such as long-term community gardener at River Garden, original Lambert resident, current volunteer with the Bronx River Alliance and former Bronx Riverkeeper, and member to the West Farms Friends of the Bronx River. Furthermore, Phipps has already received acknowledgement in that very paragraph, because this document must be tightly-worded if it is to fit within DPR Historical sign standards (based on limits carefully studied with “The Forests of New York City” sign at Bronx Park). More local residents and/or workers who helped improve the Bronx River in West Farms were named by Rosemary Ordonez-Jenkins, LMSW, Assistant Executive Director for Adult Services to Phipps Community Development Corporation, in an e-mail to the author on Tuesday, January 18, 2011. She wrote:

Some of the Lambert Residents that assisted with the Bronx River were: Maritza Martinez, Sandra Carter [Juanita Carter’s surviving sister], Margaret Allen Edwards (deceased), and Roselyn Johnson [former Bronx Community Board Number 6 Chairperson] who lives one block away from Lambert Houses. Drew Hyde, deceased, [a patrician patron of Phipps and former Phipps CDC West Farms Planning Director, for whom Drew Gardens is named], Raymond Emmanuel [former Comprehensive Community Revitalization Program Project Manager, who supervised Sebert Harper (public horticulture and nutrition) and Michelle Williams (outreach and civic engagement)], and Alice James Jenkins [all] previously worked for Phipps Community Development Corporation and were involved with the Bronx River.

Some of these individuals are shown in a group photo from page 6 of Photographic History of Drew Gardens, taken at Drew Gardens. Bronx River BiWeekly, the newsletter of the Bronx River Working Group, compiled by Jenny Hoffner, identifies Bernard Johnson as Chair of the group. This specific citation, from the article “West Farms Meeting and Potluck” from the September 23 & 26 edition, bears relevance to what we now call West Farms Rapids. It states:

The newly formed Friends group will hold their fourth meeting on September 24 to share their concerns and solicit feedback from the larger community. The Friends will also host a potluck in the park on September 26 to involve more interested community members in their efforts and to invite people into the park. Both events will be held in Bronx River Park at 179th Street and the River. For more information contact Bernard Johnson, Chair, at 718-542-0952.

The Bi-Weekly of August 4, 1998 states:

August 13.  West Farms Friends of the Bronx River Meeting. The newly formed West Farms Friends of the Bronx River will be holding their third meeting to share ideas for proposed changes to Bronx River Park and to solicit feedback from members of the larger community. Representatives from the 48th Precinct, NYC Parks and Recreation, and Phipps CDC will participate as well. The meeting will be held at Lambert Houses Community Center at 6pm.  For more information contact Bernard Johnson at 718-542-0952.

Lower, an article subheading, “West Farms Friends of the Bronx River” beneath the heading of “News” states:

At the second meeting of the Friends, issues discussed included safety concerns in Bronx River Park, a newly acquired park at 179th Street and the Bronx River. The group has plans to take back their park from prostitutes and drug users that currently occupy it. They will be tabling at West Farms’ National Night Out Against Crime and Violence to inform community members [of] their efforts…

23 The date of responsibility transfer comes from the Bronx River Park sign circa 2000. The date of ownership transfer comes from conversation with Bronx River Alliance Board Member, Dart Westphal, during the groundbreaking of Starlight Park (October 14, 2010) and was confirmed by the author in conversation with HPD’s Borough Chief Ted Weinstein at a Bronx Community Board Number 6 meeting on December 8, 2010.

24 The Bronx River Park historical sign circa 2000 shows us that the current renovation of West Farms Rapids is its third design life. The text states, “In 2000, the Transportation Equity Act allocated $770,800 to renovate the park, [re-]construct a bike and pedestrian path, clean and reconstruct the river with landscaping, fencing, lighting, site furniture, planting and signage.” Limited by its small budget, this upgrade reinforced the 30-year old Bronx River Greenway node in simple ways so that the new solid ornamental fencing we see today replaced that era’s ordinary chain link fencing. Likewise, the new stylized entry at East 180th Street is more welcoming that the chain link gate that it has replaced. The Bronx River Biweekly, published by Partnership’s for Parks Bronx River Working Group Project, provides a slightly more expansive description of this 2000 iteration of the park’s history on April 11, 2000.

25 Partnerships for Parks’s Bronx River Biweekly newsletter for the Bronx River Working Group posts a Greenway Team Update on August 29, 2000 that “a proposal for the de-mapping of Bronx Street was tabled by Colleen Alderson of Parks Planning who has determined that Bronx Street (a dead end street adjacent to the Bronx River Art Center) is no longer mapped a city street. According to records at the Topographical Unit at the Bronx Borough President’s Office it was de-mapped in 1970 as part of the Bronx Park South Urban Renewal project.”

Winter 2014 @ W. Farms Rapids Park

Works Cited

 “A New Name for a New Park.” Bronx River Current: Periodic News of the Bronx River Restoration. New York: Bronx River Restoration, Autumn 1980: Vol. 3 No. 2: p 3

Allen, Thomas B. Torries: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War. New York: HarperCollins, 2010

Anderberg, Ruth M., Founding Executive Director to Bronx River Restoration. Interview. Story Corps. December 1, 2008

Anderberg, Ruth M., Founding Executive Director to Bronx River Restoration. Telephone Interview with Author. February 21, 2006

Anderberg, Ruth M., Founding Executive Director to Bronx River Restoration. Personal Interview with Author. October 18, 2010

Board of Estimate and Apportionment of the City of New York and The Board of Supervisors of the County of Westchester. Report of the Bronx River Parkway Commission. New York, 1922

Bridges, William. Gathering of Animals: An Unconventional History of the Zoological Society. New York: Harper and Row, 1966

Bronx River Alliance. “Bronx River” historical sign text. New York: Transmitted 2010 (date of origin unknown)

Bronx River Restoration. Bronx River Master Plan. New York: Bronx River Restoration, 1980

Bronx River Restoration. Energy Moving Forward in the Right Direction. New York: Bronx River Restoration, (1978)

Bronx River Restoration Invites You to Our First First River Festival. Invitation with Program. 1980

Duddy, James. “Bronx River Flows Again.” New York Daily News November 14, 1976

Gardner, Albert Ten Eyck. “Portraits of a Bronx Aristocrat.” Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (April 1959): pp 205-208

Greenburgh Nature Center and Scarsdale Historical Society. Bronx River Retrospective: 300 Years of Life Along the Bronx River Valley. Exhibition Catalogue. Greenburgh Nature Center, Scarsdale Historical Society and the Bronx River Restoration Project, October 2 – November 27, 1983

Hermalyn, Gary. “A History of the Bronx River.” Bronx County Historical Society Journal Volume XIX (Spring, 1982): p 4

Horowitz, Michael. “Con Ed, Activists Celebrate Progress in Bronx River Cleanup.” City News March 6, 1999: p 7

Mauch, Christof and Thomas Zeller, Eds.  The World Beyond the Windshield: Roads and Landscapes in the United States and Europe. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2008

“Milestones in the Industrial Development of the Bronx.” The Bronx Historian: Newsletter of the Bronx County Historical Society. March – April 1990

Niles, William W. Letter to Jay Downer, Westchester County Parks Commissioner. March 6, 1929

Parks and Recreation of the City of New York. “Bronx River (West Farms) Park” Construction Sign posted at West Farms Rapids. New York: Date Unknown

Parks and Recreation of the City of New York. “Bronx River Park” Historical Sign. New York: 2000

“Park Name Contest.” Bronx River Current: Periodic News of the Bronx River Restoration. New York: Bronx River Restoration, Spring 1980: Vol. 3 No. 1: p 8

Phipps Community Development Corporation. Photographic History of Drew Gardens. New York: Quinn Miller Associates (circa 2000).

“Plan of the Bronx International Exposition.” Map. Kenneth M. Murchison, Architect. New York: Self-published, 1916

“Refuse in Bronx Restoring River.” New York Times. August 6, 1979: p B3

“Restoration Mini Park Ground-Breaking Held.” Bronx Press-Review. December 6, 1979: p 15

Sheridan, Chris. “Bronx River Clean-Up Adds Soldiers to Its Campaign.” Catholic News. April 25, 1974

Stewart, Barbara. “A River Rises” New York Times. December 3, 2000: Section 14, p 21

“Students Launch River Cleanup.” Bronx Press-Review. May 7, 1987

Ultan, Lloyd, and Gary Hermalyn. The Birth of the Bronx: 1609-1900. New York: Bronx County Historical Society, 2000

Ultan, Lloyd. Legacy of the Revolution: the Valentine-Varian House. New York: Bronx County Historical Society, 1983

Ultan, Lloyd. The Northern Borough: A History of the Bronx. New York: Bronx County Historical Society, 2005

White, Norval, and Elliot Willensky. AIA Guide to New York City: Fourth Edition. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000. p 73

West Farms Rapids Park in Feb. 2014
West Farms Rapids Park in Feb. 2014
Will this park's third design ever be completed?
Will this park’s third design ever be completed?

Bronx River Sankofa symbol

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4 thoughts on “West Farms Rapids Park: a history

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