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Posts from the "José Serrano" Category

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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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Deferred, Not Defeated: Sheridan Teardown Advocates Move Ahead

In the wake of the city’s refusal to consider removing the Sheridan Expressway, advocates from the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance gathered last night at a town hall meeting to revise their game plan. Although the long-term vision of removing the highway lives on, the discussion focused on other potential improvements along the Sheridan corridor.

Community members talk about alternatives to highway removal at last night's town hall. Photo: Stephen Miller

“We started this campaign wanting a full removal of the Sheridan,” Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice Executive Director David Shuffler told the crowd of just under 100. “We’re at a different place now.”

“It’s off the table for now and the Alliance accepts that,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool told Streetsblog. “These sorts of grand visions often take decades.”

With or without a highway removal, many community goals can still be achieved, including improved pedestrian safety and redevelopment to support business incubation and affordable housing. The Alliance has long advocated for new ramps from the Bruckner Expressway to the Hunts Point Produce Market to reduce the impact of truck traffic on surrounding neighborhoods, but also wants to ensure that local residents get better access to new waterfront parks along the Bronx River.

All the Alliance members — Mothers on the Move, Nos Quedamos, The Point Community Development Corporation, Sustainable South Bronx, the Pratt Center for Community Development, YMPJ and TSTC — were at last night’s meeting. Overall it was a young audience, with lots of turnout from teenagers involved in local community groups. ”I was a young person when I got involved in this work many years ago,” Shuffler told Streetsblog. ”What’s really critical is an inter-generational conversation. We engage their parents, as well.”

Participants broke into six groups to discuss how the area around the Sheridan Expressway can be improved without removing the freeway entirely. They looked at five zones along the corridor before reporting back to the entire meeting.

In addition to identifying opportunities for affordable housing, business incubators, and recreational space, participants discussed new approaches to reconnecting the areas that have been divided by the Sheridan, such as decking over sections of the highway instead of a complete teardown.

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City Abruptly Rejects Sheridan Teardown; Serrano and Advocates Fight Back

The Bloomberg administration has abruptly ruled out the possibility of tearing down the lightly-trafficked Sheridan Expressway and replacing it with mixed-use development, jobs, and parks. Neighborhood advocates and electeds are vowing to fight the decision, which they say fails to follow through on the comprehensive analysis the city promised to conduct as part of a $1.5 million federal grant.

sheridan teardown

After receiving a $1.5 million federal grant to comprehensively study the potential to replace the Sheridan Expressway with development and parks, New York City suddenly rejected the teardown option based solely on a traffic analysis. Image of community vision for the decommissioned Sheridan: Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance

At a meeting with South Bronx community groups on May 10, city officials unexpectedly announced that they would no longer consider the teardown option, according to advocates who attended. Led by the Department of City Planning, the Sheridan study promised to produce a comprehensive analysis of how replacing the Sheridan with development, jobs, and parks stacks up against rehabbing the aging highway and letting it stay in place. Instead, say advocates, officials simply showed community members a cursory traffic analysis to justify the rejection of the teardown option.

Earlier meetings between the city’s Sheridan team and neighborhood advocates had been promising, indicating that the city would evaluate not just the traffic impacts of tearing down the highway, but also the economic, environmental and social benefits of replacing the highway with other uses. “We thought they would do a more comprehensive, thorough review, and they didn’t,” said Veronica Vanterpool, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

The sudden shift came as the city was in the midst of a 90-day negotiating window with the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market Cooperative – wholesale food distributors operating out of the South Bronx — over a long-term contract. While lightly used compared to other highways (its route basically duplicates that of the Major Deegan, four miles west), the Sheridan is a primary route for trucks bound for the market, and the city’s Economic Development Corporation is keen to prevent the market from decamping to New Jersey.

The teardown was expected to marginally lengthen truck trips to Hunts Point, but would also include a number of measures to relieve bottlenecks in the local highway system, as well as new ramps providing direct truck access to the market from the Bruckner Expressway. Whether the market distributors would actually follow through on threats to move to the much more inconvenient side of the Hudson River is also highly questionable.

Advocates today demanded that the city put the teardown option back on the table. “The city’s study so far falls extremely short of the purpose of this grant and it cannot prematurely remove options from the table before completing the comprehensive analysis,” said Jessica Clemente, executive director of We Stay/Nos Quedamos. “Reconsidering the option to remove the Sheridan Expressway will help the city ensure that the Hunts Point market — and local economy — continues to thrive and South Bronx residents can enjoy a safer, more vibrant community.”

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Everyone’s On Board for East Harlem Bike Lanes — Except NYCDOT

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito rallies for the completion of the First and Second Avenue bike lanes in November, with Sen. José Serrano to her left and Assm. Brian Kavanagh to her right. The lanes will only extend to 57th Street this year, not 125th Street. Photo: Noah Kazis.

Is there any neighborhood in New York City that has asked for more and received less, in terms of safe street improvements, than East Harlem?

In 2010, days after it was announced that the First and Second Avenue protected bike lanes were on hold between 34th Street and 125th Street, Community Board 11 members blasted DOT for seeming to put a low priority on their neighborhood.

A few months later, East Harlem residents wrote to Mayor Bloomberg, asking him to ensure that they’d be able to ride safely.

And in November, City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and Sen. José Serrano stood on the steps of City Hall demanding that the city make good on its promises and finish the East Side bike lanes in 2011.

It’s no wonder why the neighborhood feels strongly. East Harlem boasts more cyclists than any neighborhood outside Lower Manhattan and northwestern Brooklyn, even though it hasn’t received any new bike infrastructure in years. That means its cyclists — like Marcus Ewing, who was fatally doored last October — are in particular danger, while its would-be cyclists don’t ride. With the highest rate of childhood asthma hospitalizations in the city, the community is also clamoring for more safe and accessible ways to get exercise.

After it was announced last night that DOT would only be installing bike lanes on First and Second up to 57th Street this year — suggesting that it may be years before improvements come to East Harlem — representatives again called for their neighbors to get a fair share of the safety-enhancing infrastructure being built further downtown.

Said Mark-Viverito:

I am very disappointed to learn that protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenues are not being extended to my community in El Barrio/East Harlem. We should be encouraging greener and healthier modes of transit in all parts of our city, particularly in a community like mine that suffers from disproportionate rates of asthma and obesity. I urge DOT to re-consider its decision and to afford the residents of my community the same opportunities for safe bike travel that are being offered to other neighborhoods on the East Side.

And Serrano:

I am extremely disappointed that, once again, the next phase of the Select Bus Service plan will not extend protected bike lanes Uptown to East Harlem and Yorkville. Last night at the SBS Advisory Committee meeting, the project team announced that that transit signals will also be installed starting at the south end of the corridor, moving northbound to Houston. I understand that this is due to the street network in that area. However, Uptown residents always seem to get shortchanged when it comes to these large scale transit projects. It’s time to break this pattern, and ensure that upgrades begin on 125th Street and work their way down, so that the residents of East Harlem and Yorkville are not the last to benefit from transit improvements.

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Fight for Completed East Side Bike Lanes Comes to City Hall Steps

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito holds 2,500 handwritten letters to Mayor Bloomberg, urging him to complete the First and Second Avenue bike lanes. Behind her are Sen. José Serrano and Assm. Brian Kavanagh. Photo: Noah Kazis.

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito holds 2,500 handwritten letters to Mayor Bloomberg, urging him to complete the First and Second Avenue bike lanes. Behind her are State Senator José Serrano, left, and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, right. Photo: Noah Kazis

After rallying on the steps of City Hall this afternoon, Transportation Alternatives delivered 2,500 handwritten letters urging Mayor Bloomberg to complete the protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenues. Joined by elected officials and more than forty supporters, T.A. called on Bloomberg to fulfill the promise of safe walking and cycling on Manhattan’s East Side and to complete the bike and pedestrian improvements up to 125th Street.

T.A. Executive Director Paul Steely White said he’s urging the city to complete the corridor by the end of next year. To meet that goal, he said, an announcement from the city needs to come in the next six weeks or so.

A completed corridor has received strong support from the East Side. Before designs for First and Second were announced, 19 electeds signed a letter calling for protected bike and bus lanes for the length of the route. After the plan was first released with protected lanes from Houston to 125th, every community board along the corridor supported the design, said White.

The fight to complete the unfinished lanes has earned the endorsement of 39 organizations, including transportation and planning groups, environmental advocates, and public health organizations like the New York Academy of Medicine and the East Harlem Aging Improvement District.

Today, elected officials continued to press for safer cycling and walking. Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh said he was “calling on the city to finish what they started.” The city had already budgeted funds for the full corridor’s construction and received community approval for the full plans, said Kavanagh. “We don’t want bike lanes to nowhere,” he argued.

State Senator José Serrano argued that shifting street space from the automobile to biking and walking would improve health in his neighborhoods. “If we reduce carbon emissions along these stretches of First and Second,” he said, “we can reduce asthma in East Harlem.”

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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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Seventeen Elected Officials Endorse PlaNYC Initiatives

On Saturday, seventeen New York City and State elected officials stood with the Campaign for New York's Future and officially endorsed PlaNYC. They are:

  • New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum
  • Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer
  • New York State Senator Liz Krueger (District 26)
  • New York State Senator Eric T. Schneiderman (District 31)
  • New York State Senator Jose Serrano Jr. (District 28)
  • New York State Assembly Member Karim Camara (District 43)
  • New York State Assembly Member Adriano Espaillat (District 72)
  • New York State Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried (District 75)
  • New York State Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh (District 74)
  • New York City Council Member Gale A. Brewer (District 6)
  • New York City Council Member Simcha Felder (District 44)
  • New York City Council Member Daniel R. Garodnick (District 4)
  • New York City Council Member James Sanders Jr. (District 31)
  • New York City Council Member Larry B. Seabrook (District 12)
  • New York City Council Member James Vacca (District 13)
  • New York City Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito (District 8 )
  • New York City Council Member David Yassky (District 33)

And here are some quotes from the Campaign's press release: 

State Senator Jose M. Serrano said, "I proudly endorse the many great proposals in Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC, including his call for congestion pricing. I believe congestion pricing is one of the keys to reducing automobile traffic and carbon emissions throughout the city. As an elected official representing parts of Upper Manhattan and The Bronx, my support is based upon assurances of a robust commitment to enhancing mass transit, and addressing the localized concerns of neighborhoods outside of the Central Business District. I applaud the Mayor for his great vision, and I look forward to working with him to make sure that vision becomes a reality."

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