The original entrance for the Kingsbridge Station of the defunct New York, Westchester & Boston Railway remains on Kingsbridge Road in southeastern Mount Vernon.
Keith Cross, 69, of St. Pauls Place, Mount Vernon, walks through Kingsbridge Mound
STORY BY ERNIE GARCIA-THE JOURNAL NEWS
MOUNT VERNON — A strip of trees separating a residential neighborhood from an industrial zone isn’t much of a woodland, but to Keith Cross it’s a paradise.
"After 16 hours of working, I used to just sit back there because it was so nice. It still is nice," said Cross, 69, referring to the Kingsbridge Mound, a narrow, elevated patch of land sitting between Kingsbridge Road and South Third Avenue in the city’s southeast.
Cross and his neighbors along St. Pauls Place want the city to protect the block-long strip known as the Kingsbridge Mound, a former station and right of way for the defunct New York, Westchester & Boston Railway.
A group of residents concerned about the city-owned plot’s future gathered more than 400 signatures on a petition in October urging the Mount Vernon City Council to preserve the plot as a wooded area or nature reserve.
Last year, a food company that had been a major contributor to Mayor Clinton Young’s inaugural ball wanted to buy the 1.5-acre property for $1 to build a distribution center and grocery store. That proposed sale did not occur after city lawyers raised questions about it.
On Friday Young said he has spoken with the residents of the area about the Kingsbridge Mound.
"At this point, all options remain open for this piece of land, including the conversion to parkland," he said in an e-mail. "However, I will continue to work with them to achieve a vision for this property that is in the best interest of the community."
Mount Vernon City Council President William Randolph said he agreed with the residents’ plea for preserving green space. Randolph said retaining walls on the property need a lot of repairs, and the city could be liable for any accident that happens if it maintains ownership of the parcel.
According to the Web site www.nywbry.com, the Kingsbridge Mound was once the Kingsbridge Road Station of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway, which ran a 20-mile railroad from the Harlem River in the Bronx to White Plains, Port Chester and other Sound shore communities. The original entrances to the Kingsbridge Station are still visible on Kingsbridge Road, though they are sealed with masonry.
The railroad operated from 1912 to 1937, when it went bankrupt.
Most of the railroad’s tracks were destroyed and its right of way used for other developments, though some of the line’s original tracks are still used today by the IRT subway’s 5 Line in the Bronx between the Dyre Avenue Station and the East 180th Street Station.
While residents want the Kingsbridge Mound preserved as green space, they are clear about not wanting a public park.
"A park would attract a lot of intruders and lots of people we don’t need," said Claudia Fraser, whose backyard abuts the property.
Sonia McKenley is one of the St. Pauls Place residents who has been working for about a year on preserving the site. She acknowledged that turning Kingsbridge Mound into a proper and safe woods would cost the city money.
"We have to choose between quality of life or money," she said. "There comes a time when you have to prioritize. Is it about our future lives, our health or money?