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Posts from the "High Bridge" Category

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Parks Department: City Hopes to Complete High Bridge Rehab This Year

Last year Mayor Bloomberg announced that the long-awaited restoration of the car-free High Bridge would be completed “by 2014.” Work began soon after, and the Parks Department tells Streetsblog the rehab is slated to wrap before the year is over.

“While we estimate that the construction will be completed in December of this year, we are exploring every opportunity to expedite the project,” Parks spokesperson Phil Abramson said via email. “DDC and Parks are working closely with the contractor to finish the project as quickly as possible and we look forward to the day that New Yorkers will once again walk and bicycle over our City’s oldest bridge.”

The High Bridge connects the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx with Washington Heights. Built as part of the Croton Aqueduct in 1848, it stopped carrying water in 1958, and was closed to the public in 1970. The city secured funding for its restoration seven years ago, and in 2010 awarded a design contract. Bloomberg joined Upper Manhattan electeds for a groundbreaking ceremony in January 2013.

The restored bridge will have new ADA-compliant access ramps. While bike riding will be permitted on the bridge itself, the ramps are considered too narrow for shared use, and cyclists will be directed to take stairs at each end. An eight-foot safety fence will be installed atop the bridge, which Parks says will be designed to minimize disruption of views.

Still at issue is how many hours per week the bridge will be open to commuters and other users. As of 2013, Parks said it will likely be closed at night, when the parks at each end are closed. Highbridge Park in the Bronx is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and park hours on the Manhattan side are a bit longer.

Project coordinator Ellen Macnow told Streetsblog last year that use of the bridge “will be closely monitored and hours will be adjusted if needed.” Other bikeways run by the Parks Department have had problems with limited or inconvenient access.

Operating hours for the High Bridge “have not yet been determined,” said Abramson.

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Bike Commuters Will Ride Restored High Bridge, After Taking the Stairs

Cyclists will be directed to walk their bikes on and off the High Bridge. Image: Susan Murray Donovan

The restored High Bridge will probably be open for morning and evening commutes, but cyclists will be asked to walk their bikes on and off the bridge, according to the Parks Department.

Project coordinator Ellen Macnow says the car-free bridge, which spans the Harlem River to connect Highbridge and Washington Heights, will have new ADA-compliant access ramps. Cyclists will be permitted to ride on the High Bridge itself, but since the ramps are considered too narrow for shared use, they will be directed to take stairs at each end.

“A compromise was reached between a wish for unconstrained access and for historic preservation — different options were explored at length during the design period,” said Macnow, in an email to Streetsblog. “Widening the ramps enough to meet shared use guidelines would have created large and imposing structures that overwhelmed the bridge. Ultimately, we decided to preserve the historic character as much as possible, which results in smaller ramps and most visitors using the original historic access.”

Macnow says the bridge will likely be closed at night, when the parks at each end are closed. Highbridge Park in the Bronx is currently open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and park hours on the Manhattan side are a bit longer. ”Use of the bridge will be closely monitored and hours will be adjusted if needed,” Macnow says.

An early proposal called for the rehabbed bridge to be open only during daylight hours on Saturdays and Sundays. While weekday bike hours will help, the stairs may limit the value of the bridge as a transportation link. Other bikeways run by the Parks Department face similar problems with limited or inconvenient access.

Few would question the historic significance of the city’s oldest standing bridge, but the addition of bike ramps seems minor compared to what happened in the 1920s, when part of the High Bridge was demolished and replaced by a steel span to make room for passing ships.

It’s also difficult to square concerns over aesthetics with the plan to erect an eight-foot safety fence atop the bridge, which in addition to bike access was a point of contention during the public input process. A fence will be installed, Macnow says, though it will be a cable mesh designed to minimize disruption of views.

At a groundbreaking ceremony last week, Mayor Bloomberg said the High Bridge, closed since the 1970s, will be open to the public by next year.

An aside: After the jump, we’ve posted an excellent mini-documentary from PBS Thirteen, featuring a primer from Macnow on the past, present and future of the High Bridge.

Read more…

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Bloomberg Says Car-Free High Bridge Will Be Open by Next Year

Mayor Bloomberg and electeds from Upper Manhattan and the Bronx at today's groundbreaking. Photo: @EspaillatNY

After talking up bike-share on the airwaves this morning, Mayor Bloomberg headed uptown, where he and other electeds broke ground for the restoration of the High Bridge.

The High Bridge is the city’s oldest standing bridge, and connects the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx with Washington Heights. Built as part of the Croton Aqueduct in 1848, it stopped carrying water in 1958, and was closed to the public completely in 1970. Its restoration is years behind schedule, but will be complete “by 2014,” according to a press release:

“In 2007, when we launched PlaNYC, our long-term sustainability plan, we committed to restoring and re-opening the High Bridge — one of our city’s great treasures,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The $61 million restoration of this this bridge, and its reopening to pedestrians and cyclists, will also open up new opportunities for communities on both sides of the river. It will bring people here from all over the five boroughs, and even all over the world, to see some of the most spectacular views in the city.”

The project received $50 million from the city, plus $5 million from Congressman José Serrano and $7 million in federal funds, according to the press release.

Unfortunately, in an editorial that pretty much takes credit for the whole project, the Daily News says the bridge will be topped with a much-maligned eight-foot mesh fence. Other items at issue during the public input process were bike access and park hours. An early plan called for the bridge to be open only on weekends, and only during the day, which would severely limit its viability as a transportation link. Parks representatives have said in the past that the city would make use of existing park trails and bike routes for cycling access, but it’s not clear what the current plan calls for.

We’ll follow up with Parks and flesh out the details in a future post.

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High Bridge Restoration Off and Running

It's about a year-and-a-half behind the schedule announced in 2007, but the rehabilitation of the High Bridge, a pedestrian and cyclist link between Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, is off the ground.

Per an email from project coordinator Ellen Macnow of the Parks Department, via Inwood and Washington Heights Livable Streets

A contract has been signed with the firm Lichtenstein Consulting Engineers, and they will start work soon. Lichtenstein is charged with producing designs for the bridge, including structural improvements, new ramp access and new protective fencing. Their work will result in a contract to be bid out for construction, which is funded by Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC program.

Public comment meetings will be scheduled in the spring.

Macnow says the High Bridge Coalition "will be working hard this year to engage the local and advocacy communities in the design." (Parks has already conducted at least one round of public input, in August of '07.) There was also concern upon the project's announcement nearly three years ago that access would be limited to daytime weekend hours, a fear Macnow tried to mitigate. "We want everybody who wants to use the bridge to use the bridge," she said.

Built as part of the Croton Aqueduct in 1848, the High Bridge spans the Harlem River to connect Washington Heights with the High Bridge neighborhood. It stopped carrying water in 1958, and was closed to the public completely in 1970.

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Streetfilms: Turning NYC’s Oldest Bridge Into Its Newest Bike-Ped Amenity

At October's Walk21 Conference, I got the chance to tour the High Bridge, a viaduct connecting Manhattan and the Bronx which has been closed to the public for nearly 40 years.

Opening the High Bridge to pedestrians and cyclists has been a long-held goal for many New Yorkers. (I remember reading about this effort back in 1998, during a postcard campaign directed at then-Parks Commissioner Henry Stern.) Many community groups, non-profits, and public agencies have advocated for its restoration, including the City Parks Foundation, The High Bridge Coalition, and C.L.I.M.B.

Over the years, many target opening dates have been announced, but recently momentum has really picked up. Very early in 2010, community input and design will finally begin. Then, if all goes well, it shouldn't be long until we can all walk and bike across this magnificent structure.

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Speak Up for an Accessible Car-Free High Bridge

highbridgehole.JPGIn other parks news, as reported on Streetsblog in June, the car-free High Bridge is poised to undergo a long-awaited restoration. Built as part of the Croton Aqueduct, the bridge connects Washington Heights in Manhattan with the Bronx neighborhood of High Bridge, near Yankee Stadium. In April, during his PlaNYC unveiling, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the city would be allocating $60 million to restore and reopen the High Bridge, which has been closed to the public since 1970; another $5 million will come from a Congressional earmark.

The Department of Parks & Recreation has posted an online High Bridge survey (here it is in Spanish), and will be collecting responses until September 7. Two items at issue are bike access and park hours. The original plan called for the restored bridge to be open only on weekends, and only during the day, severely limiting its viability as a transportation link. Parks representatives have said the city will make use of existing park trails and bike routes for cycling access, but specifics remain unclear. 

The Parks Dept. has been very sensitive to public input to this point. It's important that the city hear from pedestrians and cyclists who want a useful, accessible car-free route between Manhattan and the Bronx. 

Photo: Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

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City: Commuter Needs Will Factor into High Bridge Plan

A restored High Bridge will be open to commuting cyclists and pedestrians, but access time could be limited, officials said last week.

highbridge.jpgThe occasion was a "listening session" hosted by the Department of Parks & Recreation, when dozens of uptowners filed into the High Bridge Park Recreation Center at 173rd Street and Amsterdam to share visions of revitalizing the oldest bridge in New York City.

Built as part of the Croton Aqueduct, the High Bridge connects Washington Heights in Manhattan with the High Bridge neighborhood in the Bronx. It stopped carrying water in 1958, and was closed to the public completely in 1970. The Wednesday, June 20 meeting was part public input session, part celebration, as just a few months ago many in attendance would not have believed a long-awaited High Bridge comeback could be so close to fruition. But on April 22, Mayor Bloomberg singled out the project as a centerpiece of his PlaNYC reveal, and backed it up with $60 million in city funds. An additional five million will come from federal coffers -- not to mention the $500 check presented Wednesday from students of Bronx P.S. 126, who chose the High Bridge as the recipient of their Penny Harvest donation drive.

"We have the funding in hand," said Ellen Macnow, who led the meeting for the Parks Department. "This is not a pipe dream anymore."

Happy as they are with the rapidly accelerated pace of the renewal, residents spoke clearly about their expectations for the project. High among them was access to the car-free bridge for bike and pedestrian commuting. Going into the meeting, the city had planned to restrict usage to daytime weekend hours, but Macnow insisted such matters remain open to community direction.

"We wouldn't have a bridge for cars in the city that wouldn't be open at night and only on the weekend," said Susan Murray, an artist who brought the High Bridge project to the attention of Streetsblog readers last week. Murray said she presently has to use the Washington Bridge at 181st Street, which she described as "scary" after dark.

As for getting on and off the bridge, the city plans to make use of existing park trails and bike routes, making accommodations for cyclists as necessary. Other questions centered on the installation of benches (none are planned as of now) and fencing (for safety reasons, high fences flanking the span are "something of a necessity").

Macnow said the department will likely adjust access hours based on usage, and assured residents that their wishes will be a guiding factor: "We are with you all the way. We want everybody who wants to use the bridge to use the bridge."

Streetsblog spoke briefly with Macnow today. Based on feedback since the meeting, including comments from Streetsblog readers, she said the department's original weekends-only plan may be adjusted.

"We have a little while to figure it out," she said.

The groundbreaking for the renovation will be held at noon tomorrow (Thursday, June 27), on the terrace of the High Bridge water tower, near Amsterdam and West 174th Street. Design work is set to commence in the fall, with construction starting in the summer of 2009.

Photo: joshbousel/Flickr

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Gov’t Employee Parking at the High Bridge Rec Center

A tipster sends along this snapshot of the parking lot... I mean, sidewalk, outside the High Bridge Recreational Center prior to the meeting last night to discuss plans for the revitalized High Bridge. The talk inside, she says, "was much more encouraging" than the government employee parking situation outside.

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Will the Revitalized High Bridge be Bike-Friendly?

bridgeprofile2.jpeg

This is a guest post by Susan Murray, author of the Urban Naturalist.

The High Bridge, a graceful stone and steel bridge, reminiscent of the great Roman aqueducts, spans the Harlem River between parks in Washington Heights and the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx. Erected in 1848, decades before the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, it is Manhattan's oldest bridge, designed not just for transportation but to carry water as well. The water stopped flowing a long time ago, and the bridge was closed to people in the 1960s. Though it is no longer in use, there are plans to bring it back to life, a project that is expected to cost $60 million. The planned reopening of this crossing, built in a pre-automotive era, presents a great opportunity for Livable Streets advocates to help shape what could be a unique pedestrian and bicycle link between Manhattan and the Bronx.

In fact, the Parks Dept. is hosting a public meeting to discuss the High Bridge tomorrow evening:

Come talk about Your Vision for the High Bridge
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - 6:30 pm
Highbridge Recreation Center
2301 Amsterdam Avenue at 173rd Street, Manhattan
212-927-5864

highbikelane.jpegA little background:

In the late 1960s, High Bridge Park in Washington Heights fell into disrepair. It became a dumping ground for abandoned cars, a haven for drug dealers and gangs and a dangerous place for local residents.

During this period, the city, strapped for funds and lacking interest in rehabilitating a park so far uptown, decided to close the bridge to prevent vandals from dumping junk off of it into the Harlem River. Massive steel gates laced with barbed wire were erected to prevent people from accessing the bridge. Far from calming the chaos, closing the bridge only made High Bridge Park more desolate and less watched.

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