Spring 2005, p.6

Cycling News: Greenways
NYC Greenways: Changing the NYC Cycling Equation

More greenways please! Over 10,000 New Yorkers already enjoy the Hudson River Greenway on weekends, thousands more clamor for safe paths closer to home.

When the streets are safe, New Yorkers will bicycle in droves. Already on New York City’s 100 miles of existing car-free greenways, New Yorkers young and old are bicycling in record numbers.

Greenways might be called “safeways” for on them people feel in control of their own safety, and on greenways people are free to enjoy the myriad benefits of bicycling without worrying about dangerous drivers. Parents can let their kids forge ahead, and friends can carry a conversation while they pedal. It is for these reasons greenway usage is surging throughout the five boroughs. Manhattan’s Hudson River Greenway now sees over 10,000 bicyclists on a good day.

Growing numbers of greenway users are expecting more. Thousands of New Yorkers, through local civic groups, community groups, health advocacy organizations and community boards, are pressing the city to complete critical greenway expansions. Many groups are also working for safer
on-street routes to access existing greenways.

What these groups have in common is their successful execution of events—often bike rides on or near proposed greenway routes—that are building anticipation and giving elected officials solid proof of community support.

Thanks to their advocacy, many of these expansions and linkages are rapidly moving towards completion. Below are highlights, by borough, of upcoming greenway improvements and the groups that are moving them forward.

BROOKLYN

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez has worked in close partnership with the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) community group: (from left to right) Dan Wiley, Community Coordinator for Congresswoman Velázquez; Rob Pirani, Director of Environmental Programs, Regional Plan Association (RPA); Milton Puryear, Director Of Planning, BGI; Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez; Amy Decker, Associate Planner, RPA; Brian McCormick, Chairman, BGI; Meg Fellerath, Director of Programs, BGI.
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez has worked in close partnership with the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) community group: (from left to right) Dan Wiley, Community Coordinator for Congresswoman Velázquez; Rob Pirani, Director of Environmental Programs, Regional Plan Association (RPA); Milton Puryear, Director Of Planning, BGI; Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez; Amy Decker, Associate Planner, RPA; Brian McCormick, Chairman, BGI; Meg Fellerath, Director of Programs, BGI.

Now in the planning phase, the Eastern Parkway Greenway Extension will lengthen the 3.6-mile Eastern Parkway Greenway in Crown Heights and would provide a continuous walking and bicycling path between Prospect Park and Highland Park. To extend the greenway westward, the Prospect Park Alliance and the Parks Department are now working on an improved access plan from Washington Avenue to Grand Army Plaza; and City Planning and the Parks Department, seeking to connect the greenway eastward to Highland Park, is proposing to add on-street bike lanes and create short sections of wide, shared-use sidewalks to connect the greenway from Ralph Avenue to the Barberry Court entrance to Highland Park. Since much of this plan is contingent on City approval T.A. is encouraging the residents of Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Weeksville, Ocean Hill, East New York and Broadway Junction to contact their elected officials and ask for additional improvements such as landscaped off-street biking and walking paths in lieu of on-street bike lanes and sidewalks.

Cyclists arriving at the Coney Island beach from the southern bit of the Ocean Parkway Greenway currently reach a dead end. Those wishing to travel east and west along the boardwalk must walk their bikes (or cycle in the sand). The Coney Island Boardwalk Path would provide cyclists with an option to ride the entire length of the Coney Island Boardwalk. The first section to be completed, in late 2006, will run from Ocean Parkway to Brighton Beach at 15th Street.

While the 14-mile Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway from Sunset Park to Greenpoint is still several years away, the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI), a leading community force behind the greenway, is not waiting. The BGI is teaming with other local advocates to create an interim traffic calmed route that would mirror the forthcoming permanent greenway. The proposed bike safety measures that would be used create the interim greenway route include buffered bike lanes and physically separated bike lanes. Thanks to strong support from local elected officials, some version of the interim route will likely become reality within in the next two years.

MANHATTAN

Several missing links in the Hudson River Greenway will be completed or well on their way to being complete in the next few years. The new Battery Bikeway, which will lengthen the Hudson River Greenway along Battery Park’s perimeter, is slated for 2007 completion. Construction on the $8 million missing link in Riverside Park from 83rd Street to 91st Street is scheduled to get underway in 2006, with an opening slated for mid 2007. $1.5 million was recently earmarked to directly connect the Inwood Park waterfront to the Henry Hudson Bridge. Finally, thanks to a critical $1 million from Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields and advocacy from West Harlem Environmental Action, the $3.7 million section of greenway through Harlem River Park will extend the existing waterfront path beyond the current terminus at 138th Street north to 142nd Street. The Parks Department has also secured $2.4 million in federal money to complete the long awaited Lighthouse Link in Fort Washington Park. The .3 mile path would extend north from the Little Red Lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge to Dyckman Street and would allow cyclists to bypass the nasty must-have-a-granny-gear climb up to Washington Heights.

QUEENS

The 8.5-mile Queens East River and North Shore Greenway, which runs from the Pulaski Bridge along the waterfront to Astoria, then east past LaGuardia Air-port ending at the Flushing Bay Esplanade, will link users to many of the proposed 2012 Olympic venues. The first phase of this project will facilitate bicycle access along Queens’s East River waterfront, connecting Queensbridge Park, Rainey Park, Socrates Park, Astoria Park and Ralph Demarco Park along the waterfront.

The Department of City Planning recently secured a grant to study the feasibility of the Rockaway Beach Branch Greenway, a proposed 3.5-mile bicycling and walking path that would stretch between Rego Park and Ozone Park. The path would follow an abandoned railroad right-of-way which is currently owned by the City. The Rockaway Branch Greenway Committee (RBGC), a local community group that is catalyzing support for the greenway, won a recent victory when Community Board 9 voted to support the project. To win over still-undecided Community Board 6, T.A., the RBGC, and local pro-greenway high school students working are together to allay their unfounded fears that the greenway will be a conduit for criminal activity.

THE BRONX

Lafayette Avenue could be transformed into a key access corridor to the South Bronx Greenway.
Lafayette Avenue could be transformed into a key access corridor to the South Bronx Greenway.

The Regatta Park/ Harlem River Greenway will complete a critical .75-mile segment of the Harlem River Greenway Trail, a 3.5-mile waterfront path along the Harlem River, parallel to the Major Deegan Expressway. The segment between Depot Place and West 176th Street will link with the existing 1.25-mile greenway with-in Roberto Clemente State Park. The project will utilize a scarcely traveled city-owned service road, Exterior Street, to create connections between the Highbridge and Morris Heights communities, the River Park Towers residential community, Roberto Clemente State Park, Washington Bridge Park and a public elementary school.

While the completion of the four-mile South Bronx Greenway is still several years away, local advocates are already making plans to create critical linkages between the future greenway, known as “the Central Park of the East River,” and key neighbor-hood origins and destinations. Sustainable South Bronx is currently drafting plans to improve access to the planned South Bronx Greenway via Lafayette Avenue, which is currently dominated by long-haul trucks.

STATEN ISLAND

In Spring 2005 construction will begin construction of a three-mile segment of the Staten Island Bikeway and Cultural Trail, a 50-mile greenway system that, when connected to the South and West Shore Greenway and North Shore Greenway, will encircle the borough. The new path is expected to be completed in Fall 2006. It will run along the South Shore from Fort Wadsworth in the Gateway National Recreation Area to Miller Field in New Dorp and will connect neighborhoods to the Franklin D Roosevelt Boardwalk and existing bike lanes.

The North Shore Waterfront Greenbelt Group is holding rides to organize support for the North Shore Waterfront Greenway Trail. The trail would go from the Verazzano Bridge across the North Shore waterfront of Staten Island, past the Staten Island Ferry, through to the Goethals Bridge. The North Shore Waterfront Greenbelt group is also advocating for an interim trail to be put in place until the full greenway is built.


The Next Greenway Revolution

The next great leap forward for New York City’s greenway network will require more than just lengthening existing paths. Preserving greenways from vehicular encroachment and linking greenways to neighborhoods and parks via a new generation of on-street greenways are crucial to meet the enormous public demand for car-free cycling.

Critical Connections

Getting to greenways via NYC streets can be a harrowing experience. As yet, none of the City’s greenways are connected to bridges, and many are inaccessible from major parks and neighborhoods. To better integrate greenways, the City should install protected on-street bike lanes between its most popular greenways – the Hudson River and East River greenways and the four East River bridges. Thousands of commuters would prefer to take these greenways to work and need a safe way to access them. A top priority should be a safe on-street connection linking the Brooklyn Bridge to the Hudson River Greenway via a shared-use bike lane on Chambers Street. The Inwood Park waterfront link to the Henry Hudson Bridge is a good example of a next generation greenway connection.

Better Greenway Management

While City and State agencies have excellent greenway planners and constructors, they often fall down when it comes to maintaining right of way, safety and order on the paths. The City Parks department needs a Greenway Director to set the rules and ensure that other City and State agencies and public entities abide by them.


Putting the “Green” in Greenways

In 1993, New York City’s Department of City Planning outlined a sweeping 350-mile plan of “pathways for non-motorized transportation along natural and constructed linear spaces,” better known as greenways. Without funding, however, greenway plans remain just that.

New York City elected officials are finding that dollar for dollar, greenways deliver more quality of life benefits (read: happy voters) than any other public investment. While dozens of New York City’s local, state, and federal elected officials have done much to win support for greenways, NYC’s congressional delegation has gone the extra mile to make their greenway visions a reality, collectively securing over $40 million for greenways in the new federal transportation bill. This year alone, Charles Rangel found $4 million to fund the Harlem waterfront path from 125th to 135th Street; Jerrold Nadler earmarked $3.2 million for the Coney Island Boardwalk path; José Serrano wrangled $9 million for the Bronx River Greenway and the High Bridge; and Nydia Velázquez secured $8,2 million to extend the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway to Sunset Park.

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