A ten-year-old girl’s quest to deliver a symbolic yellow paper fish to the Harlem River, followed by a marching crowd waving blue streamer kites and wearing fish paper hats, highlighted the local outcry for a riverfront park, when a special guest visited the South Bronx on Sunday.
A global emblem for human rights, the 12-foot Syrian refugee puppet named Little Amal made a stop at the Port Morris waterfront, reigniting the community’s push to provide public access to the river and much needed open park space. The crowd of supporters marched with Little Amal from 140th Street to Lincoln Avenue between the Third and Willis Avenue bridges, as part of her New York City tour.
“It’s a good initiative,” said Adam Díaz, 33, a Mexican immigrant who walked with his nephew. “It’ll be good to have a park [for] the children [so] they can cool off during the summer,” he said in Spanish.
Little Amal, a symbol of the migrant crisis, will make more stops in the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island and Brooklyn until Oct.2.
Her visit to the South Bronx comes amid an immigration crisis where thousands of asylum seekers from Central and South America have been bused from Texas – a forced exodus by Texas Governor Gregg Abbott — to New York City. The result is an overwhelmed city shelter system, especially in the Bronx.
Community group South Bronx Unite has spearheaded the Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan, a proposal that would create public access to the riverfront for approximately 100,000 people along a 96-acre strip of public land, according to their website . Right now there are only two points of access, at Lincoln Avenue and E. 132nd Street.
“We need to work together to materialize our dream of having this access for us,” said South Bronx Unite co-founder Mychal Johnson to the crowd as they followed Little Amal to the riverbank. “This is injustice on its face. This is inequality.”
The proposal, also called the “Haven Plan,” will create seven points of access to the waterfront, including the Lincoln Avenue waterfront where Little Amal and residents gathered. There are already $2.75 million in place, but the funds are mired in stuck with the wrong government agency, said Johnson. The funds must be transferred from the city’s department of Transportation to the NYC Economic Development Cooperation to be activated.
Mott Haven resident Elizabeth Hamby said she was skeptical of the proposal for publicly accessible green space on Lincoln Avenue, where condominium high-rises are being built. “We’re standing in the middle of a construction site, so it’s hard to [imagine] how the future will look like,” she said.
However, Hamby, a 10-year resident, said, “It’s exciting to see people, and how the arts and culture are being used” to bring awareness to the project.
An art festival preceded the event, featuring artists from the South Bronx and Manhattan showcasing their works, including Korean knitting using plastic to make flags that residents wrote phrases on and waved in the air while marching.