The residents of New York's South Bronx suffer from relatively high levels of diabetes, childhood asthma and pedestrian injuries. A new initiative called the Haven Project is planning to use green open spaces to combat these issues, not only by creating infrastructure conducive to health and wellbeing, but also by tracking the results.

Created by the New York Restoration Project (NYRP), the project is rooted in the recognition that the introduction of green spaces to an area can have measurable benefits for the health and quality of life of local residents. It will focus on the neighborhoods of Mott Haven and Port Morris.

"NYRP has created green spaces in underserved communities for nearly two decades, and what we know is that trees, gardens and open space do much more than beautify neighborhoods - they transform lives," says executive director of NYRP Deborah Marton. "The Haven Project’s plan for new open spaces in Mott Haven and Port Morris will improve the health of its residents and create a new destination for the South Bronx, encouraging active lifestyles and building social capital."

The masterplan has been designed with the input of the local community and health partners. It will comprise the design, build and funding of a new network of connected open spaces, with plans for parks, tree-lined streets, public art, bike lanes and waterfront access.

There will be a new waterfront park at 134th Street, improved street crossings, bike, pedestrian routes and wayfinding to the waterfront and the Randall's Island Connector, and continuous waterfront access from the Randall’s Island Connector up to a redeveloped pier at 132nd Street.

As well as new public spaces and routes, the Haven Project will see greenery added to the locale, including over 800 new trees that will be planted in Mott Haven. Elsewhere, a network of public art trails will encourage community identity and engagement and the surfaces of industrial buildings will be used for public art and wayfinding.

In a move that could provide valuable feedback for future urban planning, the impact on the health of residents that these initiatives bring will be measured and monitored by healthcare partners. The hope is that this analysis will show a decrease in health care costs as residents’ physical activity increases.

The Haven Project masterplan was released earlier this month and the NYRP says it is now working to fund and realize the proposed renovations.

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