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Posts from the "Greenways" Category

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Avella Lines Up for Rockaway Beach Rail Reactivation, Against QueensWay

As work is set to begin on a state-funded feasibility study to convert the Rockaway Beach Branch into a 3.5-mile park and multi-use path, State Senator Tony Avella — former City Council member, onetime mayoral hopeful, and current candidate for Queens borough president — is the latest elected official to line up behind southern Queens transit activists who are trying to stop the greenway plan and instead bring back rail service.

State Senator and Queens Borough President candidate Tony Avella has sided with rail reactivation advocates over greenway proponents in central Queens. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Rockaway Beach Branch has remained unused for over four decades, with weeds growing over tracks that once took trains between the Long Island Rail Road main line in Rego Park and the Rockaways. Studies for the JFK AirTrain rejected the corridor as a route for the airport connector, and without rail service on the horizon, Friends of the QueensWay formed to push the park effort, winning the support of the Trust for Public Land and a $467,000 grant from the Cuomo administration last December to fund a feasibility study. The effort has gained the backing of a number of elected officials, with mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner unveiling his support in a policy book update this morning.

As the QueensWay has gained traction, others have ramped up the push to reactivate rail service instead.

Advocates from the Rockaways and central Queens neighborhoods formed the Queens Public Transit Committee early this year, taking an “all-of-the-above” approach by calling for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard, improved local bus service in the Rockaways, and a permanent ferry from the Rockaways. They’ve also taken the unfortunate position of calling for tolls to be eliminated on the Cross Bay Bridge.

But Rockaway Beach Branch rail service is the group’s priority. “The most efficient way is this train system,” said committee leader Philip McManus of Rockaway Park. “This goes all the way from South Queens all the way into Manhattan, and the Select Bus Service will not do that.” McManus said a study should determine whether LIRR service, which would not require tunneling, or subway service, which would require a new tunnel beneath Rego Park connecting to Queens Boulevard, is the preferred option. “Whatever works,” he said at this morning’s press conference on Liberty Avenue. “We need a legitimate study, but it has to be first that the public needs to support this. That’s why we’re here.”

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One-Way Gap in Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Set to Be Closed This Fall

The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is planned to run along the inside edge of a Port Authority lot in Red Hook. Negotiations between DOT and the Port Authority have delayed this short section until the fall. Image: DOT

Construction continues on the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway along Van Brunt Street, with a two-way buffered bike lane extending the greenway south through Red Hook striped recently, but there’s a conspicuous gap in the route that won’t be filled until at least this fall.

Missing link: This two-way bike path on Conover Street is supposed to continue through the fenced-off lot in the background. Photo: Stephen Miller

Reader Anna Zivarts flagged the problem with this short video and set of photos showing how southbound cyclists on Imlay Street find that the two-way bike lane suddenly ends at Verona Street, giving them the option to backtrack, divert to a cobblestone street, ride on a narrow sidewalk, or ride against traffic for two blocks before rejoining the new bike lane on Conover Street.

Why the gap? As shown in this DOT presentation from February [PDF], the missing link is supposed to be bridged by a bike path that jumps off the street and runs along the edge of a Port Authority truck storage yard, but it appears negotiations between the Port Authority and DOT didn’t wrap up before the on-street section was striped.

“The permanent greenway route along the Basin is expected to be completed in the fall,” DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail. In the meantime, he said, DOT will be installing temporary bike route indicators on the sidewalk. This stretch of sidewalk, while not heavily used by pedestrians, isn’t especially wide, and on a recent visit was blocked by companies that were unloading trucks.

“We continue to work with the Port Authority and other agencies to implement the portion along Atlantic Basin,” Mosquera said. Streetsblog has inquired with the Port Authority, but is still awaiting a response.

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What Might “Brooklyn Bridge Beach” Mean for the East Side Greenway?

Will the roll-out of splashy projects like the beach proposed for this site by the Brooklyn Bridge help advance a continuous greenway along the East River? Image: WXY architecture + urban design

This morning, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced that collectively, they had dedicated $7 million in capital funds to build what’s being called Brooklyn Bridge Beach. The aim of the new site beneath the iconic span is to attract New Yorkers to the East River waterfront and blunt the impact of storm surges.

Along with other projects on the East River, the beach could contribute to a high-quality, continuous greenway. But even as individual projects like the hypothetical beach gather momentum, planning for an East Side complement to the Hudson River Greenway remains scattered among a constellation of agencies and projects.

The beach is the first project to receive funding among the recommendations in the Blueway Plan, a vision for the waterfront between 38th Street and the Brooklyn Bridge released by Stringer and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh in February. (The plan’s pricey highlight is a bridge deck over the FDR Drive near 14th Street that would improve access to East River Park and eliminate a pinch point in the greenway route.)

In February, Stringer said he was committing $3.5 million in capital funds to the construction of marshland along the riverfront; Quinn’s beach announcement signals the arrival of matching capital funds from the City Council, and Stringer hinted that more money could be on its way. ”This is now money that we can leverage with the state and federal government,” he said.

Despite the commitment of funds, there are still important details missing from the proposal for the 11,000 square-foot beach. Conceptual renderings were produced for the Blueway Plan by WXY architecture + urban design, but the proposal does not include a more developed design. There is no timeline for completion of the project, nor is there an estimate of how much it will cost. And it remains to be seen whether the beach project would bring significant upgrades to the East River Greenway, which currently runs underneath the FDR Drive at this location.

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EDC: Phased East River Greenway Gaps Set to Be Filled by 2024

Support structures built in 2004 for a temporary roadway during FDR Drive reconstruction could be reused for the esplanade. This section could open as early as 2018, with other sections opening in 2015 and 2024. Photo: EDC

For years, the Hudson River Greenway has been the star of Manhattan’s greenway network, while usage of its East River sibling has been damped by a deteriorating pathway and gaps in the route. Now, with a renewed focus on the East Side waterfront, momentum is growing to complete the greenway, even though completion is more than a decade away.

One of the most important projects is filling the greenway’s gap through Midtown, currently under study by the city’s Economic Development Corporation. Sixty percent of the $5 million planning process is funded by the United Nations Development Corporation, and the remainder is from federal, state, and city funds. A deal between the city and the United Nations, brokered by state legislation, will enable the construction of a continuous waterfront greenway from 38th Street to 60th Street.

Last night, EDC hosted a meeting with the project’s community working group, and revealed some new information about the timeline for completing the greenway’s missing link.

To extend the greenway north from 38th to 41st Streets, $13 million from Con Edison would restore a deteriorating structure that the utility used for fuel deliveries, known as Waterside Pier, along a roughly 45-foot wide route that would open to the public in 2015. The greenway past the United Nations campus would be the last to open, in 2024, and the design would have to address security concerns likely to restrict access to First Avenue.

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Bronx CB 8 Committee Deadlocks on Putnam Trail Paving

Last night, Bronx Community Board 8′s parks committee deadlocked, 3-2, with two abstentions, on a resolution to support the Parks Department’s plan to pave the Putnam Line rail-trail. The community board serves only an advisory role, however, and the Parks Department is likely to proceed with the plan after it receives a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Under the proposal, the 1.5-mile Putnam Line rail-trail would be paved and include a soft-surface jogging path. Image: Parks Department

The resolution needed four votes to pass. Committee member Robert Press said he supports paving because it would be easier to maintain than a soft surface path, but voted to abstain after Parks Department representatives failed to guarantee, in response to one of his questions at last night’s meeting, that the city wouldn’t install a bike-share station in the park. (Yes, this is the caliber of thought that goes into community board votes.)

The Putnam Line carried passengers until the 1950s and last saw freight trains in the 1980s. Currently, it is a north-south dirt path through Van Cortlandt Park that connects with the South County Trailway, a paved rail-trail in Westchester County.

The paving proposal, envisioned in the city’s 1993 greenway master plan and funded by city money and an earmark from the 2005 federal transportation bill, has long been a subject of debate. Its design — a 10-foot wide paved asphalt path, with a three-foot wide soft surface jogging path on the side — has been finalized, but a group opposed to the project wants the city to scuttle its asphalt plan in favor of a stone dust path that would slow cyclists.

Park users who support paving the rail-trail say that it would close a longstanding link in the regional trail system while serving all types of walkers, runners, and cyclists. “It’s not money to create a nature trail. It’s money to create a transportation trail,” Bronx community development leader Dart Westphal told Streetsblog. “It’s a choice between doing it or not doing it.”

Council Member G. Oliver Koppell supports the paving plan, but the candidates running to succeed him this fall are far from unanimous on the issue. Clifford Stanton told Streetsblog that he supports paving the trail in a way that minimizes harm to adjacent trees and plant life, and Andrew Cohen said that although he prefers construction of a stone dust path, he is not opposed to the Parks Department’s plan. “I’d rather see it paved than left in the condition it’s in,” he told Streetsblog.

Candidate Cheryl Keeling said she is inclined to oppose paving, while Ari Hoffnung took the strongest stance against the proposal. “We need to do everything possible to prevent the City from moving forward with its ill-conceived plan of paving over the trail,” he told Streetsblog via e-mail.

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Parks Department Detours Hudson River Greenway in Harlem Until December

The closed section of the path, looking north from 133rd Street.

The Hudson River Greenway between 133rd Street and 135th Street in West Harlem is closed until December, with users instructed to use 12th Avenue as a detour during the greenway’s busiest warm-weather months.

Detour signage instructs greenway users to travel via 12th Avenue.

Detour signage has been placed on the greenway as users approach the closed section, though our tipsters said there was no warning signage in advance of the closure.

The closed section is along a seawall bulkhead, while nearby sections are not immediately adjacent to the riverfront. It also passes a Department of Sanitation facility and a natural gas facility, both of which are located on the river and connected to the path by pier structures.

This isn’t the first time the Parks Department, which manages the Hudson River Greenway, has shut down sections of this key cycling artery to Upper Manhattan. A few years ago, Parks banned biking on greenway access paths linking to Riverside Park, but later reversed the decision. Last year, rehabilitation of a bridge over the Amtrak corridor threatened to shut the path entirely north of the George Washington Bridge. After a nor’easter last November, the the department decided to shut the path altogether.

Streetsblog has asked the Parks Department why the path is closed and what kind of work will be taking place there. We’ll let you know if we hear anything back. Update: A utility company will be performing construction work at the site, according to Parks Department spokesperson Phil Abramson. “The work is not happening on parks property but they need room for construction staging,” he wrote in an e-mail.

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NYPD Ticketing Cyclists for Late-Night Hudson River Greenway Commutes

NYPD is ticketing cyclists riding on the Hudson River Greenway after 1:00 a.m., which is the Parks Department’s citywide closing time, according to a reader who was stopped by police on the greenway last night.

NYPD shut down the Hudson River Greenway as a functional transportation route last night after 1:00 a.m. Photo: Ed Yourdon/Flickr

A Streetsblog reader who gave her name as Ellen says she was commuting home at around 1:30 a.m. early this morning when she saw a police cruiser blocking the path near 72nd Street. She had heard that officers were ticketing cyclists for using the greenway after 1:00 a.m., so the encounter wasn’t entirely unexpected.

“He didn’t ticket me, but gave me a warning,” Ellen writes. However, she says the officer’s partner gave tickets to other riders that passed by during that time. The officer told Ellen that riders are putting themselves at risk of attack by riding in the park after 1:00 a.m. ”I told him we are commuting home on the safest route possible,” Ellen said. “I said I would rather take my chances in the park than on the street with the drunk drivers.”

Calling the rationale of getting cyclists off the greenway in the name of safety “just plain nuts,” Ken Coughlin, who serves on the transportation committee of Community Board 7, which covers the Upper West Side, noted that the greenway is “the cyclists’ equivalent of the Henry Hudson Parkway.”

“Sharing streets with motor vehicles is more dangerous for cyclists in any case, but it is far more dangerous late at night when drivers tend to go faster and are more likely to be impaired,” he said.

It’s hardly the first time that Parks Department policy has conflicted with the greenway’s role as a transportation artery. A few years ago, the department banned biking on greenway access paths linking to Riverside Park, but later reversed the decision. After a nor’easter last November, for instance, the Parks Department decided to shut the path entirely. Now, police enforcement of the 1:00 a.m. curfew is diminishing the benefits of improved lighting on the greenway between 59th and 72nd Streets, which NYC DOT installed in February, encouraging evening and nighttime cycling.

South of 59th Street, the greenway is owned by the New York State Department of Transportation, and remains open 24 hours a day.

Parks Department spokesperson Philip Abramson confirmed that Riverside Park and Riverside Park South, including the greenway, close at 1:00 a.m., but referred other questions to NYPD. Streetsblog has inquired about the ticketing with NYPD via phone and email, but has not received a reply.

UPDATE:  CB 7 chair Mark Diller told Streetsblog, ”It’s of concern that the greenway is not open at all hours, if only for the reason that streets get more dangerous after dark.” Because the path is a major route for cyclists north of 59th Street, Diller would like to reach some kind of agreement with the Parks Department, and will be meeting soon with the parks administrator to address this and other park issues.

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DOT Plans Safer Walking and Biking Routes to Bronx River Greenway

DOT is proposing to add a two-way, jersey barrier-protected bikeway to a block of Bruckner Boulevard that's currently a high-speed asphalt free-for-all. Image: DOT

The Bronx River Greenway, threaded along the waterfront between expressways, railroad tracks and busy arterial avenues, is difficult to access for many of the surrounding South Bronx residents. A proposal from DOT [PDF] would improve park access while providing some order to the area’s streets.

“It’s hard for folks in the neighborhood to get to these parks,” said Joe Linton, greenway director for the Bronx River Alliance. “We’re going to need these on-street improvements.”

The plan has four components. The first will add a two-way barrier-protected bikeway along a block of Bruckner Boulevard, immediately adjacent to the Bruckner Expressway. It would connect a sidewalk near the southern end of Concrete Plant Park to north-south bike lanes on Bryant and Longfellow Avenues. The lane is carved out of the massive expanse of asphalt currently used for a 41-foot wide travel lane.

While this is a huge safety gain for a location that currently sees a lot of wrong-way cycling on a high-speed road, the lane connects to a pedestrian bridge across the Bruckner Expressway that has no ramps. Instead, bike riders have to carry their bikes up a sloping set of stairs.

“They can still do more to seamlessly connect it,” said Richard Gans, a volunteer on the Transportation Alternatives Bronx committee. “In general, we’re happy with the improvements that are proposed,” he added.

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Let There Be Light: Notorious Dark Patch of West Side Greenway Gets Bright

New lights on the Hudson River Greenway between 59th and 72nd Streets. Photo: Sebastian Delmont/Flickr

New lights appeared earlier this week on the Hudson River Greenway between 59th and 72nd Streets, on a notoriously dark stretch beneath an elevated section of the West Side Highway.

Although a few patches remain dark, sources tell us it’s a vast improvement. Word is that DOT is responsible for installing these lights, which are a temporary solution until the Parks Department redesigns this area of the park next year. Repeated appeals from local cyclists to the Parks Department to provide this simple safety upgrade were met with surprising apathy in the past. Parks first promised lighting on this stretch of the greenway in 2010, but didn’t deliver anything until last year. The new lights seem to be a big step up compared to the old ones.

Streetsblog has checked with DOT and the Parks Department for more information. We’ll let you know if we hear an update.

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Eyes on the Street: Reconstructing the East River Greenway

Looking north from Houston Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Last week, we reported about the Blueway Plan for the East River waterfront, which includes a deck over the FDR Drive at 14th Street to fix a notorious pinch point in the East Side greenway. In the meantime, the greenway is receiving some nuts-and-bolts upgrades.

The bikeway in East River Park, long prone to ponding, is being reconstructed and repaved from East 7th Street to Corlears Hook Park, south of Grand Street. The project should be completed by the end of March and is being paid for by Con Edison, which had previously installed an electrical line beneath the path, according to the Parks Department.

Construction in East River Park at Houston Street has closed access to the bikeway but promises a puddle-free ride when finished in March. Photos: Stephen Miller