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Our 197-a Community Plan

Riverdale is one of only 13 communities in NYC (as of July 2013) to have created a Community Plan to guide local development. Community Plans are referred to as 197-a Plans because they are authorized by Section 197-a of the City Charter.

CD 8 2000: A River to Reservoir Preservation Strategy was adopted by the NY City Council on November 19, 2003. The plan was sponsored by Bronx Community Board 8 and involved discussion and study over several years by city agencies, residents, and business owners. The Preservancy was a leader in shaping the recommendations for the Special Natural Area District.

The Plan can be viewed from the website of Community Board 8.

Summary of Recommendations

Neighborhood Character

Preserve the existing scale and form of the area’s neighborhoods through a series of zoning changes. The plan notes that the “zoning changes are proposed to ensure that the type of development permitted more closely matches underlying built form”.


Special Natural Area District (SNAD)

Strengthen protection of natural features within the SNAD by:
  • tightening SNAD zoning controls, similar to the controls recently developed for the Special Hillsides Preservation District;

  • reducing or eliminating the exemptions to SNAD regulations;

  • improving the proposal review process; and

  • extending the area covered by the SNAD.



Protect steep slopes from erosion, and protect neighborhood character in hilly areas by mapping Special Hillsides Preservation Districts.

Scenic Views

Protect scenic views of the Jerome Park Reservoir, the Palisades, the Hudson River, and the Harlem River from intrusion by development by mapping Special Scenic View Districts.


Educational, Social, and Employment Opportunities

Improve the quality of the district’s public education system. Recommended programmatic changes include:

  • creating smaller schools at all levels;

  • linking and coordinating educational resources, such as schools, libraries, and public housing community center education programs; and sharing physical facilities.

  • Meet the library needs of local residents, including many young families with children, by expanding local branch libraries to recommended standard sizes. New space would accommodate shelf space, seating space, meeting rooms, and work rooms.

  • Meet the health and social service needs of increasing populations of elderly and school-aged residents by expanding access and types of services.


Historic Resources

Further protect the Jerome Park Reservoir and Van Cortlandt Lake by designating them New York City Scenic Landmarks.

Prevent the loss of local historic resources by extending the Riverdale Historic District and identifying other resources eligible for historic district or individual landmarking.

Protect the area’s road network through a historic roads program.

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Increase the range of housing for all segments of the population.

A targeted housing revitalization strategy is recommended for renovation of the existing housing stock.

Reuse of commercial and other non-residential structures as residential is recommended.

Improve the grounds and surrounding streets around the Marble Hill Houses.

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Parks and Recreation

Enhance the availability and quality of parkland resources in our community.


Specific recommendations for Van Cortlandt Park include:


  • Better maintenance of fields and addition of a permanent comfort station near the soccer fields in the northern portion of the park, known as the Parade Grounds

  • Installation of a consistent system of informational signage at park entrances and of directional signs to parking lots along surrounding streets

  • Ideas for the existing trail along the Old Putnam Line include linking it to east-west routes, improving directional and informational signage, and renovating the abandoned Van Cortlandt station as a rest stop and visitors' center for cyclists and hikers

  • Creation of off-road and paved bicycle paths within the park

  • Restoration of, increased maintenance of, and improved access to Van Cortlandt Lake

  • Increased protection and recognition of historic sites in Van Cortlandt Park through the planned Heritage Trail, designation of a Historic District, and improved signage.

  • Increase voluntary and cooperative efforts involving area schools.

  • Increase recreational and transportation opportunities through a network of greenways and bike trails, including the Old Putnam Line—both within and south of Van Cortlandt Park—the Hudson River Valley Greenway, and various on-street routes.

  • Create new parkland in the district by designating the Jerome Park Reservoir as parkland. A running track around the reservoir, gardens, reuse of the historic pump houses, and preservation of the reservoir itself as a spectacular historic water element at the center of the park are suggested.

  • Increase access to open space in neighborhoods that are not within walking distance of existing parks, particularly in Kingsbridge Heights, through identification of opportunities for vest pocket parks.



  • Increase parking, provide safer pedestrian crossings, improve access to local shopping for limited mobility populations, improve east-west access, and create linkages between major parks and existing and proposed linear open spaces through a wide variety of physical and programmatic improvements, including:

  • Public and special transportation for area seniors with supportive companions

  • Increased east-west bus service

  • Improved roadway safety for bicyclists, bicycle racks on buses, and bicycle

  • facilities at new developments

  • Physical changes to streets and sidewalks to increase pedestrian safety

  • Increased maintenance and sanitation of step streets

  • Provision of additional parking, both off- and on-street

  • Relocation of Broadway IRT track support columns

  • Increased enforcement of truck routes

  • Coordination with local and state DOTs to ensure that future projects minimize disruption and respect neighborhood character

  • Monitoring of projects to minimize delays in completion

  • Where appropriate, ensure availability of the waiver of the requirement for construction of streets to their full, mapped right-of-way during development.

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