Eyes on the Street: Sudden Collapse in East River Greenway

east_side_cavein.jpgThe East River Greenway collapsed at 72nd Street without the usual warning signs. Photo: seth_holliday/Flickr

Gothamist posted this alarming picture of a cave-in on the East River Greenway that first appeared on Wednesday. After the initial fencing off and some calls to 311, the city responded by installing the temporary span shown below.

east_side_cavein_fix.jpgPhoto: Erin Lamberty

I'm not a regular rider of the East Side path, but reader BicyclesOnly tells us that sinkholes and cave-ins in the greenway are common occurrences. Usually a depression forms in the surface of the path first, giving some signal about what's in store. What's rare about the collapse at 72nd Street is that it happened without those warning signs, and that the city responded quickly and put in a temporary pathway. (Although the planks look like an iffy proposition for cyclists to handle without dismounting first.)

At other sinkholes, the fencing remains in place, narrowing the greenway path and creating pinch points that put the squeeze on bicycle and pedestrian traffic, some of which linger for years. Right now there are large sinkholes fenced off at 110th Street and 118th Street. One pothole, at 64th Street, has been fenced off since 2006 with no permanent fix. Another, at 74th Street, is still surrounded by fencing after three years.

We have a request in with the Parks Department to see if there are any initiatives in the works to prevent these recurring hazards from happening. The only protected bicycling facility on the East Side is incomplete, riddled with pinch points, and in terrible physical condition. The suddenness of this week's cave-in suggests that the sorry state of the greenway poses a danger that can't be ignored any longer.