May/June 1999, p.4

Brooklyn Bridge Changes
Bold Plan for Brooklyn Outshines Lackluster Manhattan Approach

Flexible bollards, like these on the Williamsburg, slow cyclists and eliminate the need for "dismount" signs.Under current plans, cyclists and pedestrians using the Brooklyn entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge can look forward to an exciting new design for access. On the Manhattan side, however, the story is not so encouraging.

The Department of Transportation has requested $4 million in Federal clean air funds (CMAQ) to connect Cadman Plaza to the Bridge Path on the Brooklyn side. If funded, the Cadman Plaza link would likely be completed sometime in 2004. T.A. strongly supports the bold changes envisioned in the Cadman Plaza Plan, which include converting a five-block section of Cadman Plaza East/Washington Street into a car-free plaza, including a separated bike path.

One of the best parts of the plan is that cyclists and pedestrians will no longer have to navigate the huge and treacherous intersection at Adams and Tillary. While some details need to be worked out - particularly how cyclists will access the path from the north at Prospect Street, and exactly how cyclists and pedestrians will coexist on car-free "New Washington Place" - the Cadman Plaza extension is a fresh and innovative solution.

Alas, the impending changes on the Manhattan side, which should be completed as early as October, are not so inspired. Despite T.A.'s four-year lobbying campaign for "Alternative 6," which would merge the bridge promenade into City Hall Park by eliminating Centre Street, the DOT and Parks Departments chose a watered-down version of another design that widens the existing access island. Despite T.A.'s intimate involvement with the Manhattan side changes, a process T.A. initiated more than five years ago as the champion of a new entrance design, and numerous meetings in past years between the Mayor's Office and high-ranking DOT officials, T.A. was not invited to comment on the city's final design.

One result of this is that the chosen design poses serious safety problems. By putting a fountain and chained-off garden space at the base of the promenade, the design unnecessarily squeezes cyclists and pedestrians into narrow paths. Additionally, the plan calls for cyclists and pedestrians to swap places so that cyclists will travel on the north side of the bridge. However, this will work only if NYC Transit removes the subway entrance that now emerges into the promenade a few hundred feet from the Manhattan side - a change that is not assured. When T.A. confronted a DOT official with the concern that cyclists will have to squeeze through a three-foot gap between the railing surrounding the entrance and the walls of the promenade, the official unhelpfully replied, "Well, I guess we'll just have to stick a cop out there until the entrance is closed."

T.A. has asked the DOT to help create more room for cyclists and pedestrians to move around each other by replacing the fountain and garden with a "bowling pin" array of flexible, plastic bollards like those at the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge Path.

Write and ask Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington to ensure that cyclists and pedestrians have a fair chance to review and comment on the Brooklyn Bridge Manhattan side access plan:

Rudy Washington
Deputy Mayor
City Hall
New York, NY

Read the latest news on this subject.