The Problem With Managing the West Side Greenway as a Park, Not a Street

The entrance to the Hudson River Greenway at 60th Street was closed from Wednesday afternoon until this morning.

New Yorkers looking to get somewhere on the city-owned portion of the Hudson River Greenway yesterday were blocked by barricades like this one. Along with the rest of the city park system, the greenway was officially closed from noon Wednesday until Friday morning, a precaution the Parks Department took to guard against the risk of falling trees caused by this week’s Nor’easter.

Parks Department spokesperson Philip Abramson confirmed that whenever city parks are closed, the greenway path closes too. “The greenway is part of the park and has trees along it,” he said in an email. “Also, one has to pass through the park to get to the greenway, in most cases.”

The risk of falling tree limbs due to winds or heavy snowfall is real, but the same risk affects other parts of the city’s transportation network that don’t get shut down during storms. Any sidewalk or roadway with mature street trees, for instance, is basically in the same situation as the sections of the greenway next to mature trees. Closing down the greenway also creates new risks, as cyclists are forced to ride with motor traffic on Manhattan’s wide avenues — which were slushy and slippery after this week’s storm — instead of a dedicated bike path.

In Sandy’s aftermath, when the number of New Yorkers riding bikes skyrocketed, there seemed to be a tacit acknowledgment by the city that the Hudson River Greenway is an important transportation artery. Streetsblog received reports from readers that the greenway remained open to bike traffic and foot traffic even though it was officially closed like other city parks. That made sense because when you get down to it, the greenway is not a park; it’s the trunk line in Manhattan’s bike transportation network. And many thousands of people needed to use the bike network to get where they had to go after the storm. The city should work on creating an official protocol to manage the greenway accordingly and keep it open to bike traffic to the greatest extent possible.

Separately, Abramson said the city is working to restore power to the electrical equipment that keeps the lights on along the greenway, which in some locations was flooded during Sandy. Readers report that the greenway has been pitch black and hard to navigate at night, north of 60th Street. “We are aware of the light outages and working on them,” said Abramson. “We do not yet have an estimated repair schedule.”