Help Pier 5 Remain Parkland

September 16th, 2018 Posted in Front Page News, mill pond park, Pier 5, Pier 5 Pop Up Wetland - first of its kind

Help Pier 5 Remain Parkland

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A Short History of Pier 5 and the Public Trust Doctrine

Located at the intersection of 149th and Exterior Streets, Pier 5 was unimproved land under the jurisdiction of the New York City Parks Commissioner since the City destroyed the Bronx Terminal Market.  In 2016, the Mayor’s Office decided to extend the unsuccessful 2009 Lower Concourse Zoning change permitting housing along the Harlem River waterfront. Since the private building market in the Bronx was stalled, they took our implied future park to stimulate the market for an affordable housing mixed use development located on the Harlem River waterfront.  This was north of the originally zoned waterfront in the Bronx. Pier 5 has long been earmarked parkland, and is an integral part of the vision of an expanded Mill Pond Park.

The land between the Harlem River and Exterior Street, north of 149th Street and south of the Major Deegan Access Road is Mill Pond Park. The genesis of this new park was the 2006 Yankee Stadium development. At that time, a piece of Mill Pond Park was mapped parkland in exchange for the City’s taking Macomb’s Dam Park to build Yankee Stadium. Between the Yankee Stadium and Bronx Terminal Market Mall projects, the City dedicated $60 million to create Mill Pond Park and Tennis Courts. The project was only partially built as the City lacked the funds to continue to the end as Pier 5. The original plan was well publicized, and the whole park is even still visible on a kiosk in Mill Pond Park.

Our interest in ensuring the City keeps its commitment to use the public land as park is consistent with New York State’s longstanding public policy of protecting parkland for the use of people as open space. To protect this public interest, New York State forces municipalities to get legislative approval from the State before it can repurpose parkland for another use. “Once land has been dedicated to use as a park, it cannot be diverted for uses other than recreation, in whole or in part, temporarily or permanently, even for another public purpose, without legislative approval.” United States v. City of New York, 96 F.Supp.2d 195, 202 (E.D.N.Y. 2000). This clear law has been applied consistently since 1871.

So far, the City has avoided this requirement by issuing self-serving statements claiming that while the land has been under the control of the Parks Department, it is not parkland subject to alienation.  We disagree.

The judicially developed “Public Trust Doctrine” requires alienation of any land dedicated as parkland.  A dedication can be formal, such as through an official act by the governing body of the municipality, or may be implied.  The portion of Mill Pond Park that was designated as parkland in exchange for the portion of Macomb’s Dam Park that was lost to the community is formally dedicated parkland.  The proposed development overlaps with this land.

Implied dedication of parkland occurs through actions which demonstrate that the government considers the land to be parkland or the public used it as a park. Examples include: a municipality publicly announcing its intention to purchase the lands specifically for use as a park, “master planning” for recreational purposes, budgeting for park purposes, or “mapping” lands as parkland. Kenny v. Board of Trustees of Village of Garden City, 735 N.Y.S.2d 606, 607 (App. Div. 2nd 2001) (property acquired for recreational purposes and used for recreation was instilled with public trust even though never officially dedicated).

We have collected voluminous evidence that the remainder of Mill Pond Park, even if unbuilt, has clearly been dedicated parkland through multiple city actions over a period of over a decade.  We hope that you will consider this evidence before acting on the Lower Concourse North development project, which improperly gives public parkland to private developers.

September 17, 2018


Karen Argenti

Joyce Hogi

Ira Charles Levenberg-Engel

Christina Taylor

Nilka Martell

Jane Sokolow

Louis Kleinman

Deb Dolan

Matt Turov

Anonymous Angel #1

James Fairbanks

Robert Fanuzzi

Chauncy Young


Bronx Council for Environmental Quality

Public Park (12/15/61):  A “public park” is any publicly owned park, playground, beach, parkway or roadway within the jurisdiction and control of the Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, except for park strips or malls in a #street# the roadways of which are not within the Comissioner’s jurisdiction and control. (Zoning Resolution, effective date amended: 3/22/18).    For more information:

Help Pier 5 Remain Parkland September 2018

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