The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway started out as a glimmer in the eyes of a few dedicated volunteers 14 years ago. Now it’s a comprehensive city plan to build out a ribbon of parkland from Greenpoint to Sunset Park.
At the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative’s annual benefit yesterday, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced the release of an implementation plan for the full 14-mile greenway , which will serve as the backbone for car-free biking and walking along the borough’s waterfront. The plan consists of 23 segments that can be fed into the city’s capital construction pipeline.
“This document marks both the end of the planning stage and the start of a new era,” Sadik-Khan said in a statement today.
The backstory of the greenway could some day form a textbook for grassroots livable streets activism. The founders of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative — Meg Fellerath, Brian McCormick, and Milton Puryear — hatched the idea in 1998. In 2005 their vision took a huge leap forward, when Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez secured a $14 million federal grant for the project. Following NYC DOT’s 2008 decision to adopt the greenway as official policy, the city’s planning and outreach  accelerated, with BGI, DOT, and the Regional Plan Association organizing dozens of public workshops over the past few years to map out the greenway route. “Every step in the process was open and transparent and gave people an opportunity to express their ideas,” said Velazquez last night.
After a day when Republicans in Congress renewed their efforts to eviscerate and belittle programs for biking and walking , Velazquez framed the greenway project as a smart transportation investment. “It’s not only about providing public access, but connecting communities along the waterfront,” she said. “That is providing transportation options, so you can walk or bike, and burn some of those calories.”
In recent years, DOT has implemented five miles of preliminary segments like the Kent Avenue bike lane, which will be upgraded as the greenway is built out. Those stretches are heavily used already, showing the intense demand for the greenway. “That is the spark,” Sadik-Khan said of the sections along the greenway footprint that have been repurposed so far. “People are already using it,” including, she noted, Velazquez’s 90-year-old mother.
The document released today includes the final route of the greenway and outlines a plan to build it and options to fund it. The first capital projects, according to DOT’s announcement, will consist of the “upcoming construction of permanent protected paths on West, Flushing and Van Brunt streets.”