Brooklyn Boro

Is the East River Gondola plan closer to becoming a reality?

November 29, 2016 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The Roosevelt Island Tramway may soon be getting a southern neighbor in the form of the East River Skyway, a proposed aerial gondola system that would connect Williamsburg to Lower Manhattan. 

Daniel Levy, president of the real estate website CityRealty, initially proposed the gondola system in May, but the project has recently received the backing of several key elected officials with the L train shutdown looming on the horizon.

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Council Member Stephen Levin recently wrote a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio urging him to seriously consider the East River Skyway, not only as a transportation alternative during the L train closure, but also as a way to increase capacity and resiliency for years after.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also voiced his support for the gondola plan in a separate letter to the mayor.

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The gondola would provide relief to the hundreds of thousands of commuters who use the L train daily.

“What’s very encouraging is that everyone on the team is very excited and enthusiastic about the fact that we really can deliver this in a period of a couple of years, which is just radically different from what New Yorkers are accustomed to for transportation projects,” Levy told the Brooklyn Eagle. “For example, if you look at the Second Avenue subway, how many decades has that been under planning and actual construction and the mass displacement that has occurred in that area? Not to mention the $4 to 5 billion dollars that has been spent.

“People fundamentally want a solution. When [the East River Skyway] is presented and they see that it can be built very quickly, at low cost, this can be very inexpensive for people to ride, it’s going to be incredibly quick, it’s going to be absolutely silent, totally green. It literally checks every box that you want to check. And it’s going to look beautiful.”

According to Levy, the tramway will have the capacity to transport 200,000 daily passengers, and each individual gondola car would be able to carry 35 to 40 passengers at a time.

The entire system would move about 5,000 passengers per hour in each direction.

In comparison, the L train transports about 400,000 people daily, according to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.

The average cross-river transit time on the East River Skyway would be less than five minutes, and gondolas would leave each station every 30 seconds. An unlimited ride card would be available at roughly $25 a month.

“This project, which in no way would diminish the current need for bold transportation improvements and mitigations on our streets and waterways, would complement existing and future surface transportation options,” said Adams. “The Skyway — which could be financed by private sector funding, with little-to-no cost to the city or the state — would serve as a vital link between the two boroughs, particularly given the reality of increasing congestion on the L train, which is expected to worsen as residents move into thousands of apartment units presently under development in the area.”

“Our transit system should be as bold and innovative as the individuals that make up our city,” said Levin. “We should explore every option to mitigate the closing of the Canarsie tubes — both big and small. The Skyway may be a part of what I hope is a comprehensive, multipronged approach to maintaining vital transit options for North Brooklyn and beyond.”

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