A sign at Bankside informs the public that all are welcome to the park between 6 a.m. and 1 a.m. By Jiana Smith.

South Bronx residents can spend the summer enjoying a new park.

Community leaders, organizers and members came together under the cool shade of Bankside Park to celebrate the space’s official opening last Thursday afternoon.

The June 13 celebration marked the completion of real estate company Brookfield Properties’ Bankside master plan, a $950 million mixed-use development along the Harlem River waterfront on either side of the Third Avenue bridge.

The first phase, Third at Bankside, was topped out in 2021, while the second phase, Lincoln at Bankside, opened to residents in 2023.

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson called Bankside Park a “beacon of hope” for the community.

“It showcases how we can turn pain into purpose, challenges into opportunities, and open more doors in setting a precedent for future developments right here in our borough,” Gibson said during the event.

The park, which is more than one square acre, rests behind Lincoln at Bankside, a luxury apartment complex built and operated by Brookfield Properties. However, the park is open to the public.

For decades, South Bronx residents have been blocked from the Harlem River waterfront due to the land being marked for private use for warehouses and waste management facilities.

“We want to make sure that we are opening up our waterways, we are opening our spaces to make sure everyone is truly included,” Gibson said.

The park’s opening comes months after confusion surrounding who was able to access it. In mid-October, South Bronx Unite organizer Matthew Shore was stopped by a security guard while giving a community tour to Columbia University students. Shore said the guard told him that the park was for Lincoln at Bankside residents only, despite posted signs that said the park was for public use.

After the incident, South Bronx Unite organized a rally to raise awareness about the park’s public accessibility.The group, whose work includes creating community access to the Port Morris and Mott Haven waterfront, was then invited to a meeting with Brookfield representatives to discuss options to make the park more inviting and accessible to the public, according to the organization’s executive director Afir Ullah. 

Solutions included making new Brookfield hires aware that the park could be used by the public and creating signage outside of the park that told the community that the park is a public space. 

“We communicated to Brookfield that these privately-owned public spaces are public spaces, and they should be treated as such,” Ullah said.

In an email to the Mott Haven Herald, Brookfield spokeswoman Laura Montrose emphasized that the park is accessible to the general public, and not just residents of the complex.

“Bankside Park is complete and open to the public,” Montrose stated.

Brookfield vice president Charlie Howe thanked South Bronx Unite for their “spirit of partnership” in his opening remarks.

Additional speakers at the Bankside Park opening included Bronx Parks Commissioner Jessenia Aponte, Bronx Department of Transportation Commissioner Anthony Perez and City Planning Director Daniel Garodnick.

“Access to excellent, open space like this is essential to a happy and healthy life for New Yorkers,” said Garodnick.

More development may be coming to the area. During his remarks, Howe said that the DOT is helping Brookfield Properties advocate for a potential connection beneath Third Avenue Bridge to the rest of Bankside Park behind Third at Bankside, also owned by Brookfield.

Bronx DOT Commissioner Perez used his remarks to highlight the Harlem River Greenway project, a plan to connect Van Cortlandt Park to Randall’s Island Park through open green spaces and bike paths and provide public access to the waterfront.

A section of this plan would connect Lincoln Avenue through Bruckner Boulevard to Randall’s Island.

“It’s not just about connecting residents to the waterfront, it’s also about creating meaningful transportation connections to jobs, to schools and to historical and cultural destinations,” Perez said. “These real improvements are helping to improve the lives of Bronx residents in the community.”

Josephine Byrne, chairwoman of Community Board 1’s senior and aging services committee, said the board is happy about Bankside Park and excited about upcoming developments.

“The Bronx is the stepchild in terms of what we get,” said Byrne. “We’re very happy about it.”

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