Residents rally to oppose Riverside Park land swap

Evan Carter
The Detroit News

Detroit — A few dozen residents rallied Monday in Riverside Park to urge the City Council to vote “no” on proposed land swap with the owners of the Ambassador Bridge.

The council is expected to vote Tuesday on the plan, which would give the Detroit International Bridge Company three acres of city-owned land in exchange for improvements to Riverside Park. The Moroun family, which owns the bridge, wants the land to build a second span across the Detroit River.

Under the deal, the Morouns would invest about $3 million in Riverside Park, including building a baseball diamond, soccer field, picnic and fishing areas and a riverside promenade. The family also has promised to tear down a warehouse it owns adjacent to the park.

Opponents are angry the family has invested millions in fighting plans for the state-backed, publicly owned Gordie Howe International Bridge further downriver instead of investing more money in Riverside Park.

“This is a short-sighted proposed deal that would give our Riverside Park away to a billionaire for pennies,” community advocate Deb Sumner said.

The press conference was hosted by Sumner, Friends of Riverside Park’s Joe Rashid and members of the Congress of Communities Youth Council. The event attracted about three dozen people from the community as well as state Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit.

Opponents of the land swap said if the deal does go through, the city should extract tough concessions from the Morouns.

If a new Moroun-owned bridge is built next to the Ambassador, 10 percent of toll revenues should be diverted back to the community, they say. They also want a legally binding commitment from the Morouns that protects the health, safety and welfare of the community.

“Council must refuse to give away the public’s golden egg (Riverside Park),” Sumner said. “People in generations to come will have to live the deal made.”

Marvella Gutierrez and Juan Centeno, members of the Congress of Communities Youth Council, spoke out about the neighborhood’s needs as members of southwest Detroit’s next generation.

“I’m planning to come back (to southwest Detroit), but my kids should be able to come here and have a good time,” Gutierrez said. “If (the Morouns) want to use the land, they should also take care of it.”