Winter 2002, p.18

The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway: Growing out of the Shadow of the BQE

The Task Force has also fought for the inclusion of the Greenway as an urban connection in the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation's draft master plan for the proposed Brooklyn Bridge Park. The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway will be a key conduit for drawing people from all neighborhoods south of Atlantic to the Brooklyn Bridge Park - without cars. Most notably, the Greenway will connect residents from Red Hook, which boasts the largest public housing project in the country, with the new park. Read the latest news about this issue.

The long neglected working waterfront of Red Hook is an ideal bicycle and pedestrian destination and route. The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Task Force, led by Brian McCormick, is spearheading the push for a 4.7-mile off-street path from Brooklyn Bridge Park to the Beard Street Piers.

The Issue
The main obstacle in its way is the Department of Transportation's (DOT) plan to use the land in question for street widening to make room for an expanded truck route. Because the Greenway would require nearly all of the available sidewalk space to the west of Columbia Street and all of the sidewalk to the west of Van Brunt Street, any widening of these streets will make a continuous waterfront greenway impossible. Though it does not have data to support its claim, the DOT believes that the new truck route is necessary to accommodate long trucks and to generally promote safety. The Greenway Task Force, with T.A.'s support, is determined to help revive Red Hook with greenery - not concrete.

The Fight

  • 1950s: Robert Moses constructs the Gowanus and Brooklyn Queens Expressway. These eyesores sever the Columbia Street Waterfront District, (just north of Red Hook) from the rest of Brooklyn and trigger a process of neighborhood decline.
  • 1993: the NYC Department of City Planning identifies the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway as a priority route.
  • 1998: City Planning releases a Preliminary Design and Summary Report for the Greenway. The plan instructs the DOT to integrate the Greenway into a delayed plan to reconstruct Columbia Street between Atlantic and Hamilton Avenues. Specifically, it calls for new water and sewer work along the Greenway route.
  • 1998: Enthusiastic community members, including T.A. members, form the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Task Force to promote the Greenway.
  • 2000: The DOT presents its reconstruction plans before Community Board 6. Though the plans include a bike path, they also call for four new lanes on Columbia Street for a truck diverter and a significant widening of Van Brunt Street. Outraged residents demand that a new taskforce comprised of Community Board members, DOT and Greenway advocates revisit the plans.
  • 2001: The Greenway Task Force calls for the re-instatement of the old City Planning design that includes an off-street greenway. The DOT, unable to cite any real evidence, still insists that the truck diverter and other street widening are necessary for safety reasons.
  • 2001: Members of the Task Force secure land from the Port Authority. This will allow the construction of part of the Greenway even if the DOT proceeds with street widening.
  • 2001: The DOT abandons plans for the truck diverter.
  • 2001: The DOT appears before Community Board 6 again. Its representatives refuse to acknowledge the Greenway. Instead, the DOT pushes for an on-street bike lane on the Van Brunt Street truck route.

To date, the DOT has ignored repeated requests by the Greenway Task Force and the Community Board to reopen the plans for the Van Brunt Street leg of the Greenway and has yet to provide copies of any finalized plans. T.A. joins the Task Force's call for the creation of an off-street continuous multi-use greenway.

Join the Fight
The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Task Force urges newly elected Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Councilmember Angel Rodriguez, newly elected Councilmember Bill De Blasio, State Assemblywoman Joan Millman, State Senator Martin Connor and U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez to support the Greenway. Please contact these officials to encourage their support.

For updates, visit the Task Force on the web,