NEW YORK - It’s a part of the South Bronx Simeon Bankoff believes has so much potential. The Port Morris waterfront, with a pair of gantries that looms tall.
“What they are, they are loading mechanisms for when the ferries would come in from Rikers Island or from North Brother Island they can go right in and load up from it,” said Bankoff.
Bankoff is with the Historic Districts Council, a nonprofit that advocates for historic New York City neighborhoods. He’s teamed up now with Mychal Johnson from the organization South Bronx Unite to try and make the Port Morris waterfront easily accessible and designate its gantries as city landmarks.
“Our children don’t know there’s water surrounding our neighborhood because there’s no way to get to it, so we are here to help speak up and build coalition and work with others to make sure this happens,” said Johnson.
Gantries are bridge-like overhead structures with a platform to support equipment. The two here in the South Bronx are on land owned by the city and date back to the 1940s. They were built and used to aid ferries along the waterfront. These gantries were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, but advocates want them to become city landmarks as an extra layer of protection.
“The city can decide whether or not they want to keep them, renovate them or demolish them. If the city designated them as a landmark it would be another kind of chit in the protection of these places,” said Bankoff.
John Mertens has worked as a handyman in this neighborhood for 20 years. He thinks a facelift along the waterfront would no doubt brighten this industrial community.
“If you look around there are no trees around here really, there’s nothing here like in terms of green and in the summer it would be nice,” said Mertens.
As for Johnson and his group South Bronx Unite, they started an online petition as a way to garner support for the gantries' preservation. They’ve also submitted a request to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
“This is one of the potential access points in which could give 90,000 people who live here an access point to the peninsula which they have no access to,” said Johnson.
“The gantries can really be a wonderful anchor point for a revitalization and investment in this area, one of the things that we hope is that the gantries can become a place where people come to look at this wonderful neighborhood. Look at this neighborhood and don’t just think of it as some forgotten corner of the Bronx,” said Bankoff.
The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission confirms it received the request for landmark consideration for the Port Morris gantries. The agency is in the process of reviewing that request now.
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