Bay Ridge

Bike path pushers to rally at foot of Verrazano Bridge

October 8, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bike riders and pedestrians will be able to ride and walk from Bay Ridge to Staten Island via the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge if the MTA builds a walkway on the bridge. Eagle file photo by Rick Buttacavoli

MTA looks at building walkway on Brooklyn-Staten Island span

Buoyed by news that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is looking into the possibility of installing bike-pedestrian lanes on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, two environmental activist groups will hold a rally on the Bay Ridge side of the Brooklyn-Staten Island span on Saturday to boost public support for the idea.

Transportation Alternatives and the Harbor Ring Committee will gather on Shore Parkway and Fourth Avenue at noon on Oct. 10 to call on the MTA to move forward with a plan to put a walkway on the bridge.

Paul Gertner, a member of the Harbor Ring Committee, told the Brooklyn Eagle that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) will be among the speakers at the rally.

The rally comes in the wake of the MTA revealing that it is taking a serious look at building a bike-pedestrian path on the 51-year-old bridge.

“Since the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was built over 50 years ago, elected officials and community leaders from both Brooklyn and Staten Island have called for a connecting path for people on foot and on bike. Now, thanks to a current construction project, New York has the chance to make this long-awaited path a reality!” the Harbor Ring Committee wrote on its website, www.harborring.org.

The Harbor Ring Committee is seeking to put a continuous bike-pedestrian path around the entire New York Harbor.

On Tuesday, the MTA revealed that it is looking into the possibility of putting a bike-pedestrian path somewhere on the bridge.

Parson Brinckerhoff WSP, an engineering firm hired to study the bridge with an eye toward making improvements to the span, announced that it had zeroed in on three possibilities — building paths that would extend from each side of the upper level of the bridge like wings, putting the paths on each side of the lower level or building an entirely new level beneath the lower level of the bridge just for bikers and pedestrians to use.

If the paths are constructed on either side of the upper or lower levels, one side would be dedicated to bikes while the other side would be preserved for pedestrians.

The bike-pedestrian path would cost between $300 million and $400 million to install and would be built only after additional engineering studies are completed.

The pathway would be part of a “Master Plan” — a larger, comprehensive project to renovate and strengthen the bridge, officials said. The entire Master Plan is expected to cost $1.5 billion. The blueprint of the plan is set to be released in 2016.

Gertner and the Harbor Ring Committee are happy that a bike-pedestrian path is at least on the drawing board. But Gertner said the MTA should also be considering other ways to install the pathway.

“We do commend them. It’s a fantastic plan. But they did not look at the option of taking a lane of traffic and putting the pathway there,” Gertner told the Eagle.

There is a great deal of excitement in Bay Ridge over the idea of a walkway on the bridge, according to Charles Otey, executive secretary of the Merchants of Third Avenue business group.

“It will give us, finally, the chance to enjoy the bridge,” he told the Eagle.

Otey pointed out that thousands of homes along Seventh Avenue in Bay Ridge were demolished in the late 1950s under eminent domain to build the approaches to the bridge. “We deserve a break,” he said.

Otey, who has been pushing for a walkway for more than 20 years, said he prefers to call it the “Verrazano Lifeway.”

To call it a bike path would be a mistake, Otey said.  “A bike path is not a popular term with citizens. If people think it’s just going to be a bike path, it won’t win widespread support. It has to be stressed that it’s a walkway for pedestrians,” he said.