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Randall's Island Park

Parks, NYCEDC And Randall’s Island Sports Foundation Break Ground On Hell Gate Pathway Project

Friday, July 1, 2011
No. 48

Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe today joined NYC Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky, New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales, Deputy Bronx Borough President Aurelia Greene, Bronx Community Board 1 Chair George Rodriguez, Amtrak Vice President of Government Affairs & Corporate Communications Joe McHugh, Randall's Island Sports Foundation Co-Chair Nancy Neff, Randall's Island Sports Foundation Executive Director Aimee Boden, and children from the Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education to break ground on the Hell Gate Pathway at Randall's Island.

The Hell Gate Pathway will run under the scenic sand-colored arches of the Hell Gate Bridge and railroad trestle between the Hell Gate rapids to the south of Randall’s Island Park and the Bronx Kill to its north. A key part of an Island-wide pathway system, the Hell Gate Pathway will open over a mile of non-vehicular access along renovated and reclaimed parkland. It is an important link in creating a passable loop around most of the Park and joining points adjacent to all three surrounding boroughs of Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. It will also run directly into the Bronx Connector, the first at-grade access to Randall’s Island from the Bronx, which is slated for construction in coming years.

“The Hell Gate Pathway is a particularly fitting use for a structure which continues to reflect the long history of and romance with travel in and around New York City,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “Randall’s Island Park offers waterways, roadways, rails and new waterfront pathways, and the new Hell Gate Pathway will link all of these together at one spectacular site.”

“Today’s groundbreaking begins another important chapter in the Randall’s Island story,” said NYCEDC President Seth W. Pinsky. “This and other planned projects will seamlessly connect pedestrians and bikers in the boroughs of Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan via an easily accessible pathway, building upon the many recreational facilities completed on the Island in recent years. The City’s vision of an all-inclusive leisure and recreation destination at Randall’s Island is now one step closer to reality.”

“I am pleased that the Department of State is helping to support the construction of this important pedestrian pathway on Randall’s Island,” said New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales. “This much needed amenity will provide New Yorkers with spectacular views of the city’s waterfront and provide residents of the surrounding boroughs with access to open space and recreational opportunities. This is exactly the type of project the Department’s waterfront revitalization program is designed to help.”

“Amtrak is proud to be a partner in the construction of this unique pathway,” said Joe McHugh, Vice President for Government Affairs & Corporate Communications, Amtrak. “For nearly a century, trains have passed over Randall’s Island, and the Hell Gate Pathway is a testament to our shared history.”

“RISF, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and the New York City Economic Development Corporation have worked together for years to open waterfront pathways throughout Randall’s Island Park,” said Nancy Neff, Co-Chair of the Randall’s Island Sports Foundation. “This newest section will provide a sheltered, appealing, dedicated bicycle and pedestrian route – free from motorized vehicles - right down the center of the Island.”

“The Hell Gate Pathway is our most architecturally significant section, and visually quite stunning,” said Aimee Boden, Executive Director of the Randall’s Island Sports Foundation. “It will open access to the Park’s remarkable new facilities for all visitors, and especially for communities in the Bronx, who are geographically our closest neighbors.”

The $7.5 million Hell Gate Pathway was developed by RISF in partnership with Parks and NYCEDC. It was designed by Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners and funded through a federal DOT Transportation Enhancements Program (TEP) grant with a local match from the Manhattan Borough President. Construction was made possible by Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) grants from the New York State Department of State and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation alongside funding from the Office of the Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. EDC is managing the first phase of the pathway’s construction. Amtrak, which runs Northeast Corridor service along the Hell Gate trestle, partnered with RISF and Parks by contributing over $15 million toward securing the bridge to ensure safe passage under its arches.

The dramatic arcade structure of the Hell Gate Bridge and railroad trestle spans Randall’s Island Park approximately one hundred feet above the ground. This unique piece of City infrastructure has been the subject of both textual accolades and restoration efforts. Admired for the Classicism of its piers as well as for innovative elements such as the reverse curve in its top chord, the Bridge was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and its history reaches back to the early days of New York’s great bridges and railways.

The Hell Gate Bridge and trestle were designed by the renowned engineering team of Henry Hornbostel and Gustav Lindenthal, just a few years after their completion of the Queensboro Bridge. It is the longest bridge of its type in the world; built in 1917, its 1,017-foot parabolic arch and three miles of concrete viaduct run from Astoria, Queens across the entirety of the Park to the South Bronx. This passage was commissioned by railroad companies in 1912 to conquer the busy and treacherous shipping channel of “Hell Gate,” so named by New York’s earliest European explorers for its deadly tides and white water rips.

Hell Gate is where the East River and Harlem River meet to run toward the Atlantic Ocean, creating some of the most dangerous and turbulent waters to navigate along the East Coast. The Bridge that finally crossed these waters was built with the future in mind, to accommodate more and heavier trains than were currently in use. Such foresight paid off, and the Hell Gate Bridge still serves as an important connection in the rail system from Canada and New England to the South and West.

Katherine Oliver, Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, said, “The Hell Gate Bridge and viaduct, and especially the dramatic sand-colored arches, have been featured in numerous films, including The French Connection (1971), Serpico (1973), Queens Logic (1991) and A Beautiful Mind (2001). It is truly a recognizable New York City landmark, and it is exciting that the public will now be able to access a site so often memorialized on film.”

The Hell Gate Bridge was also the inspiration for the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney, Australia. According to the February 2005 issue of Discover magazine, it would be the last New York City bridge to collapse if humans disappeared, taking a least a millennium to do so. Most other bridges would fall in about 300 years.

About The Randall’s Island Sports Foundation
The Randall’s Island Sports Foundation, founded in 1992, is a public-private partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation that seeks to realize the unique potential of 480 waterfront parkland acres anchoring Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens. RISF, in conjunction with City leadership and the local community, has worked to reclaim and maintain parkland, restore the natural environment, and develop sports and recreational facilities. In partnership with dozens of local public schools and community-based organizations, RISF also brings thousands of children to the Park each year for a range of free sports and environmental education activities. For more information, visit

Directions to Randall's Island Park

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