Skip to content

Posts from the Department of Parks & Recreation Category

32 Comments

Central Park Above 72nd Street Is Now Car-Free Forever

Last week, people walking and biking on the Central Park loop had to worry about taxi drivers and car commuters motoring through the park as a rush hour shortcut. This morning was different: Above 72nd Street, you could ride your bike, walk your dog, or go for a run on a safer, quieter path with a lot more elbow room.

Officials and advocates celebrated the permanent expansion of the park’s car-free zone under sunny skies this morning. While traffic is still allowed in the heavily-used southern section of Central Park, today’s ceremony marks a big step on the path to completely car-free parks.

“This is a great day in Central Park,” said Douglas Blonsky, president and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy. “The conservancy for 35 years has been fighting to get cars out of the park and to see this happen is awesome.”

The changes, announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this month, build upon the gradual expansion of car-free hours that advocates have fought for since the 1960s, when the loop was overrun by traffic at all hours, every day.

Effective today, the Central Park loop north of 72nd Street is permanently car-free, except for emergency and service vehicles [PDF]. In Prospect Park, the West Drive will go car-free next Monday, July 6 [PDF]. Traffic will continue to be allowed at various hours on the Central Park loop south of 72nd Street, and during morning rush hour on the East Drive in Prospect Park.

“It’s terrific that we’re getting cars out of the park for the north side of the loop,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who co-sponsored car-free parks legislation with Council Member Mark Levine before the de Blasio administration took up the issue earlier this year. “I think we have a little bit of work to do to get [cars] out of the south side. I think that’s where the challenge really is. So we have some good work ahead of us to get that done.”

Read more…

18 Comments

The Case for 24/7 Access to the High Bridge

Video of opening day on the High Bridge: Clarence Eckerson.

New York City’s bike network would be a shell of its current self without the segments that run through parks. The most heavily traveled bike route in the city — the Hudson River Greenway — is in a park. Paths in Central Park, Prospect Park, and other public parks provide options for safe, quick bicycle travel that simply aren’t available on the city’s car-centric streets.

But bike routes in parks are not managed like other transportation routes in the city. The Parks Department closes greenways after a rough storm and imposes curfews that shut off legal access well before many people head home for the night.

With the opening of the High Bridge earlier this month, there’s finally a safe route to bike or walk between Washington Heights and the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx. The High Bridge, as it happens, is run by the Parks Department. As tremendous an improvement as the restored bridge may be, its curfew is also emblematic of broader problems with how the Parks Department manages critical active transportation routes.

The city has redesigned streets to make biking and walking to the High Bridge safer and more convenient. Anyone can use those streets 24 hours a day. The parks on each side of the bridge are open until at least 10 p.m. The High Bridge, meanwhile, closes at 8.

Reader Steven Kopstein wrote in to express his disbelief that the High Bridge is publicly inaccessible for 11 hours each day. Here’s his message, lightly edited:

I was anxiously anticipating the re-opening of the High Bridge. As a resident of Upper Manhattan with strong Bronx ties, I was very excited to finally have a way to cross into the borough on my bike without having to either ride on a crowded narrow sidewalk or on a dangerously busy bridge. I was also thrilled at the prospect of having a tourist draw and truly unique feature to show off to and enjoy with friends and relatives. I love the prospect of new recreational facilities being developed in an area that has been blatantly underserved for many, many years.

Read more…

4 Comments

After 45 Years, the Car-Free High Bridge Reopens to the Public Tomorrow


The wait is just about over. Tomorrow the car-free High Bridge will be opened to the general public for the first time in 45 years.

The High Bridge spans the Harlem River between Washington Heights and the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx. Built as part of the Croton Aqueduct in 1848, it is the city’s oldest bridge. The High Bridge stopped carrying water in 1958, and was closed to the public in 1970. The Bloomberg administration secured funds to restore the bridge in 2007.

The reopened bridge will provide a key link for walking and biking between the Bronx and Upper Manhattan. Bike riding will be permitted on the bridge itself, but access ramps are considered too narrow for shared use, according to the Parks Department, and cyclists will be directed to take stairs at each end.

We don’t yet know what hours the High Bridge will be open. In 2013 Parks said it will likely be closed at night, when the parks at each end are closed. Parks also said hours could be adjusted based on demand. Bike and pedestrian paths operated by the Parks Department are often prone to restricted or inconvenient access.

Clarence Eckerson shot this Streetfilm in 2009. For more on the history of the High Bridge, check out the short documentary from PBS Thirteen.

4 Comments

Will the Parks Department Let Another Sinkhole Swallow the Greenway?

Photos: Ed Boyak

Photos: Ed Boyak

Remember the sinkhole in the Hudson River Greenway that took almost a year for the Parks Department to fix? Now there’s another one.

Streetsblog reader Ed Boyak alerted us and Parks to the new hole, located a few hundred yards south of Dyckman Street. Boyak said it opened up last week.

“There has been a wide depression collecting dirt in this spot for the past few years,” Boyak said in an email. “The now open hole is four to five inches in diameter and appears to be hollow underneath.”

The new hole is nowhere near the size of the Washington Heights crater that formed in 2013, but there is a discernible outline of how it could spread if it isn’t repaired.

Jennifer Hoppa, administrator for parks in Upper Manhattan, said in an email Wednesday that Parks Department staff were on their way inspect the hole. But there was no commitment to fix it.

“One of the many challenges to the site of course is mobilization given that there are stairs to that area and for full repair at a minimum we would need to arrange for a highway lane closure,” wrote Hoppa.

The Hudson River Greenway is the trunk line for bike commuting on the west side of Manhattan. In May the Parks Department and DOT closed sections of the greenway without notice — a routine practice that lengthens commutes and can force cyclists and other users onto streets that aren’t as safe for biking and walking.

The Parks Department didn’t repair the Washington Heights sinkhole for at least 11 months, allowing it to spread most of the width of the greenway.

“I fear the thought of dealing with another six-foot wide hole for the next year or two,” said Boyak.

Read more…

28 Comments

Just in Time for Summer, Two Big Detours on the Hudson River Greenway

This detour, between 59th and 63rd streets, will last until the end of August so DOT can repaint the highway viaduct.

One of New York’s busiest bicycle routes has been interrupted this summer by two detours where the city is asking riders to dismount and walk for blocks.

Both work zones cropped up last week without any signage explaining why they were installed or how long they would last. A tipster who asked to remain anonymous reported the detours to Streetsblog, and here are the explanations we got from city agencies.

This detour

This detour at the 79th Street Boat Basin will return for a few months starting in June.

The first detour is from DOT, which says it is painting the Joe DiMaggio Highway viaduct between 59th and 63rd streets. Crews will intermittently close the bikeway between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays, and cyclists will be directed to the pedestrian path along the river, where they must dismount and walk. DOT said it expects to finish work by the end of August. Observing the detour will add several minutes to bike trips on this stretch of the greenway.

The dismount zone is right next to one of the worst pinch points on the greenway, a section that’s been narrowed to accommodate construction work by the Department of Sanitation at 59th Street. Greenway cyclists will be able to bypass the Sanitation project once a newly-built segment by the water opens to the public.

The second detour is from the Parks Department, which is repairing Dock A at the 79th Street Boat Basin after damage from Hurricane Sandy. The Esplanade is closed entirely, with greenway users directed to the traffic circle by the Boat Basin Café.

That detour first popped up last week, but work has now been postponed until June, said Parks Department spokesperson Sabirah Abdus-Sabur. Construction should last for a few months, depending on weather.

6 Comments

The New Plan to Connect Downtown Brooklyn to Its Waterfront

The "Brooklyn Strand" covers blocks cleared for expressways and parks in the 20th Century. Map: WXY Architecture [PDF]

The “Brooklyn Strand” seeks to improve walking and biking connections in an area cut up by highway ramps in the 1930s. Map: WXY Architecture

Starting in the 1930s, entire city blocks in Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, and DUMBO were razed for expressways and parks. Today, this jumble of on-ramps and disconnected green space separates Brooklyn’s waterfront from its downtown core. A new public-private initiative, called “The Brooklyn Strand,” seeks to knit these disjointed areas back together.

On Monday evening, Claire Weisz of WXY Architecture + Urban Design presented the design [PDF] to the Brooklyn Community Board 2 parks committee, Curbed reports. The project is a joint effort of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Mayor’s Office, the Parks Department, and the Department of City Planning.

The plan recommends turning a quiet block of Cadman Plaza East into a pedestrian plaza. Image: WXY Architecture

The plan recommends pedestrianizing a lightly-trafficked block of Cadman Plaza East. Image: WXY Architecture

The plan has been in the works for a year and builds on other initiatives already underway, like bicycle and pedestrian improvements in DUMBO and near the Brooklyn Bridge entrance at the intersection of Tillary and Adams Streets. It also echoes many of the public space proposals from Transportation Alternatives and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle strategic plan.

Read more…

57 Comments

70th Precinct Fines People for Choosing a Safe Place to Walk or Bike at Night

Brooklynites are asking the city to stop penalizing people for walking and biking on a park path that lets them avoid dangerous traffic on a nearby street.

Map: DOITT

The 70th Precinct has deemed the north-south biking and walking path through the Parade Ground off-limits after dark, fining people for using a bypass around dangerous Coney Island Avenue. Map: DOITT

The paved path through the Parade Ground south of Prospect Park links the park loop with low-traffic neighborhood streets, serving as an alternative to Coney Island Avenue, a wide street with four lanes of through traffic. In particular, the path allows people to avoid the intersection of Coney Island Avenue and Caton Avenue, where drivers injured an average of two pedestrians or cyclists per year between 1995 and 2009, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat. The path is also a designated bikeway on the New York City bike map.

It’s common for people to use the path at night, and over the summer, local residents asked the 70th Precinct to stop issuing criminal court summonses on the path after sunset.

At a September meeting of the 70th Precinct community council, Deputy Inspector Richard DiBlasio said NYPD was issuing summonses for the safety of people walking and biking, reported Ditmas Park Corner. “Unfortunately, there’s been some recent crime in that area — there’s been an increase in crime in that area,” said DiBlasio. “We don’t want to prevent anyone from using our park, but when it gets dark in that park there are different rules because it’s not safe.” The Prospect Park Alliance posted new signs emphasizing that the path closes at night.

But people who use the park path are more concerned about traffic on Coney Island Avenue than traveling through the Parade Ground after dark.

“Many are coming and going to Prospect Park while others are walking home from the F train,” wrote local resident Olgierd Bilanow on a petition asking the Prospect Park Alliance and the city to change the rules and keep the path open until 1 a.m. “For all these people walking through the Parade Ground path is the easiest, safest and most pleasant way to go between home and Park Circle.”

On Tuesday, Bilanow posted an update: “The 70th Precinct has vetoed any changes to the hours at the Parade Grounds.”

14 Comments

Eyes on the Street: New Bike Channel on Inwood Hill Park Rail Bridge

Reader Kimberly Kinchen tweeted this photo of a new bike channel on the stairs of the bridge over train tracks that separate Dyckman Fields, on the Hudson River, from the rest of Inwood Hill Park, to the east.

“It’s only on the second flight so far,” wrote Kinchen. “I assume they’ll install them on the first flight, too — still an improvement for sure.”

We’ve asked the Parks Department if this retrofit will be applied to other stairways, or if there was a request for bike channels on this particular bridge. We’ll update here if we hear back. In the meantime, let us know in the comments if you’ve seen other stairways with newly-installed ramps.

4 Comments

Parks Department Repairs Hudson River Greenway Sinkhole

Happy Bike to Work Day: The Parks Department has repaired the Hudson River Greenway sinkhole.

Streetsblog first reported on the sinkhole, located just north of 181st Street in Washington Heights, almost a year ago. Temporary fixes didn’t keep it from widening. As the problem got worse, the Parks Department said the agency was trying to ascertain what caused the sinkhole, and who was responsible for repairing it. By early May it had swallowed most of the path.

Sometime between Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning, workers filled the hole with what looked like a mixture of sand, dirt, and asphalt, and placed a metal plate over part of it. This opened up more room for users to pass, but the rain made the plate slippery, and the area was in general a muddy mess. More important, as it turned out: Construction barrels were placed around the hole and lined the greenway for 20 to 30 yards in both directions.

Parks told us last week that the agency had hired a contractor, who was obtaining permits to close lanes on the Henry Hudson Parkway. We asked Parks spokesperson Phil Abramson by email yesterday if repair work was imminent. “Yes,” Abramson replied, “work is getting underway to make the repairs.”

@AndrewOnBike posted the above pic on his Twitter feed today.

The Hudson River Greenway is the trunk line for bike commuters who travel between Manhattan’s Central Business District, Upper Manhattan, and points beyond. The Parks Department often closes segments of the greenway, without notice and for extended periods of time, which interrupts commutes and can force cyclists and other users onto hazardous streets.

“This isn’t the only problematic section of the greenway, but it is the worst,” Kimberly Kinchen, Inwood resident and member of Bike Upper Manhattan, told Streetsblog. “I’m glad to see that Parks finally took action.”

Read more…

15 Comments

Parks Dept. Promises Fix After Year-Old Sinkhole Finally Swallows Greenway

Hudson River Greenway users north of 181st Street can get by on the grass shoulder, but the sinkhole is expanding.

Hudson River Greenway users north of 181st Street can get by on the grass shoulder, but the sinkhole is expanding.

It’s been almost a year since we first reported on a sinkhole eating away at the Hudson River Greenway just north of 181st Street. The Parks Department added barricades, an old board, and finally filled it with gravel last month while it figured out “a long-term solution.”

The clock is ticking: In the past couple weeks, the hole has grown and now swallows the entire paved path, forcing greenway users onto a narrow grass shoulder.

Parks Department spokesperson Phil Abramson said that the hole is the result to a broken water line and will require lane closures on the Henry Hudson Parkway to fix:

Parks has secured a contractor to execute repairs to the broken water line and the section of greenway path that is being compromised as a result of it. The contractor is in the process of securing roadway construction/lane closure permits [so] that the section of highway barrier can be removed and heavy machinery mobilized to make the needed repairs.

Streetsblog asked if there’s a timeline for the repairs, but didn’t receive a reply. We’ll let you know if we hear anything back.