South Bronx Greenway Construction Gets Underway This Summer

SBxGwayLafayetteRendering_Slide.jpgA rendering of plans for Lafayette Avenue, with a planted median, standard painted bike lanes, and amenities along an expanded sidewalk. Image: NYCEDC

Construction is set to begin on the first stages of the South Bronx Greenway this summer, marking the first tangible results of a community-based, bottom-up campaign for more livable streets. The project will bring safer walking and biking and much-needed green space to neighborhoods where people-oriented streets are in short supply.

The redesigns of Lafayette Avenue and Hunts Point Avenue, as well as new waterfront park space at Hunts Point Landing, will all begin construction this summer, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Those streets will receive landscaped medians, expanded sidewalks, and new bike lanes. Work on Food Center Drive, which will include the first physically protected bike lane in the Bronx, is scheduled to begin this fall.

Implementation is close enough that people are getting excited about each construction truck that comes to the area, even though so far the crews are just doing regular road maintenance, said Miquela Craytor, the executive director of Sustainable South Bronx and a longstanding advocate for the greenway. 

Construction of the Randall’s Island connector, which will eventually tie the South Bronx Greenway into the Manhattan bike network, is scheduled to begin in fall 2011, according to EDC. Adding a biking and walking path from the South Bronx to Randall’s Island will give residents better access to the island’s recreational facilities and provide a safe route to the new bike lanes planned for First and Second Avenue in Manhattan. When the connector is finished, said Craytor, the greenway will be between a quarter and a third complete.

What’s about to be built differs somewhat from the original plans for the greenway, first put forward in 2006. In particular, plans to place pedestrian and bike paths along a median on Lafayette Avenue have been revised, with space for biking and walking shifted to the side of the street at the request of the Fire Department and the Department of Environmental Protection.

"We ended up putting quite a bit of that streetscaping to the sidewalk and expanding the sidewalk," said Craytor, noting that the center median will remain planted with trees and shrubs. She isn’t particularly disappointed. "We successfully pushed back and ensured that the concept of slowing down traffic and narrowing the street was increased," said Craytor. "This will be an area for people, not vehicles."

More pictures below the fold:

SBxGwayRICBridgeRendering_Slide.jpgThe Randall’s Island Connector, running underneath an AMTRAK trestle, will create a new link to bike or walk between the South Bronx and Manhattan. Image: NYCEDC
SBxGwayHPLRenderingSeatingArea_Slide.jpgNew public space at Hunts Point Landing, at the southern end of the Hunts Point peninsula. Image: NYCEDC

  • J

    This is good to hear. That area desperately needs traffic calming and better transportation options.

    In addition, the connector bridge to Randall’s Island is in place, but it isn’t open yet, and the greenway is nowhere near complete. When it is, though, it will be by far the easiest connection to Randalls Island without the use of a car.

  • what is it with the medians? i mean, who is doing this stuff to us, and are the new urbanist-type folks in on it? i’ve never had a day of formal training in urban planning, but i know how much medians diminish quality of life. damn that’s frustrating.

  • Herzog

    Flowers? Shade? Trees? Disgusting.

  • what are just a few reasons that shading cars with a median is bad for people?
    1. increases the speed of motorized traffic
    2. takes road space away from bikes and prevents future meaningful bike infrastructure like buffered or protected bike lanes
    3. prevents walkers and bikers from crossing the street where they want to
    4. visually obstructs drivers from seeing people trying to cross the street
    5. greatly increases maintenance costs.

    and every single one of these ill effects of medians has several secondary ill effects.

    you’d think we’d be able to wrangle a simple buffered bike lane out of this deal? no, sorry — too much to ask. the fire people said ‘blah’ — based on dubious evidence, no doubt, so we have to prevent people from getting around on bikes. awesome.

    and it would have been buffered bike lanes that would have actually provided *better* emergency response time, because we wouldn’t have that stupid median blocking everyone and everything in its path. now, ginormous firetrucks can’t even cross the median to get around slow and disabled vehicles. smart!

    if you want some damn trees, put ’em on the damn sidewalk where they are wanted and needed — where they belong. trees on the sidewalks serve several valuable purposes, none of which are served by trees planted in the middle of the road:
    1. spacially denote the pedestrian realm
    2. protect walkers (psychologically and physically) from moving cars
    3. filter sunlight onto the sidewalk
    4. soften the hardscape
    5. create a vaulted ceiling over the street at its best.

    it’s not rocket science.

  • kaja

    Peter’s got an excellent view of one side of this. The other side seems pretty simple, though, and I’m curious how he’d respond to this:

    Extending sidewalks involves moving infrastructure, requires a long permittal and logistics process. (For one: How’s the road going to drain when the catch basins are no longer over the sewers?)

    DOT is working with a limited budget and is moving as fast as they can.

  • Extending sidewalks involves moving infrastructure, requires a long permittal and logistics process.

    granted, but the sidewalks are being widened anyways. from the article:

    “We ended up putting quite a bit of that streetscaping to the sidewalk and expanding the sidewalk,”

    onto the budget:

    DOT is working with a limited budget and is moving as fast as they can.

    if it’s a limited budget, why extend the sidewalks, a monumentally expensive task, as you noted? further, why build an expensive-to-build-and-maintain median which only serves to diminish the quality of life for everyone outside of a car? how about save some money and, you know, don’t do it? make _most_ people’s lives better, _and_ save money at the same time — sounds like a no-brainer to me.

    i agree with the FTA chief — paint is cheap — stripe some buffered bike lanes and be done with it for a couple of years. Then, after you’ve allowed people to adjust to the fact that some of them can now ride a bike on their own streets, you’ll find the political and financial support to do even bigger/better projects. Instead, building a median kneecaps the entire corridor for decades to come.

    as for quickness — the original plan was put forward in 2006. it’s now 2010. bike lanes can be put down in a matter of hours — if we include the planning process, days/weeks/months — not years.

    as for water/runoff issues — the best thing we can do is reduce our dependence on all motorized transport by allowing folks to walk and bike, so we need less of the water-absorption-blocking materials (tar/pavement/concrete) that are needed to support motorized transport — e.g. parking lots. if we add simple, inexpensive, cost-effective bike infrastructure, we can get to depaving right away — making all sorts of productive uses of reclaimed land — even if, and maybe because, so many ‘advocates’ despise urban farming.

  • Medians are nice for bus lanes, though.

  • Hey J, where can I find more info on the Randall’s Island connector, like a diagram, map, pictures or a write-up?

  • kaja

    > if it’s a limited budget, why extend the sidewalks, a monumentally expensive task, as you noted?

    I failed to notice the sidewalk extension component. So yes, I’ll agree that the median construction here is a bit confusing.

  • These comments are all very interesting and appreciated. I am writing from The POINT CDC in Hunts Point. We are a community partner on this project along with SSBx, and we are the organization that the proposal for this project came out of. Certainly everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but I wanted to mention that the plans for the South Bronx Greenway came out of a series of community visioning meetings and are a result of the local community’s wishes and desires.

    As for the Randall’s Island Connector (to Bicycles Only), you can see an image of the red bridge that will serve as the connector here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/31271305@N05/3881792872

    And plans for the Greenway along with the Connector can be found here:
    http://www.nycedc.com/ProjectsOpportunities/CurrentProjects/Bronx/SouthBronxGreenway/Pages/SouthBronxGreenway.aspx

  • Peter Smith

    the plans for the South Bronx Greenway came out of a series of community visioning meetings and are a result of the local community’s wishes and desires.

    everyone has ‘community meetings’ — that doesn’t mean the end result is perfect, or even desirable. and new information and arguments can always arise, and they should be dealt with.

    and these streets are public – they don’t belong to any one community. local communities may have a stronger say than folks from other parts of town, but they don’t have the only say. i often commute through 20 different neighborhoods a day, and i want and deserve a say in how every single street is constructed. having a median instead of buffered and/or protected bike lanes is a crime.

    also, the article mentioned that the community’s wishes were subverted by the FD and the DEP — and those changes were not insignificant — they changed the entire identity of the project, in fact.

    we all have a responsibility to make sure that _everyone_ is allowed to bike — from 8-to-80, men, women, children — everyone. without providing appropriate bicycle infrastructure on a major corridor, you’ve effectively disallowed most people from biking. it’s a crime against the neighborhoods, against the city and its residents, and particularly its children. we can’t allow any more medians to be constructed at the expense of future generations.

  • Peter, you make many good points, and I respect them. But, they are opinions. What is desirable, perfect, a good idea, or should happen are all opinions. There is no right answer. I consider myself a bike advocate and enthusiast, and yet would never think to impose my likes and opinions on others no matter how right I think I am. You say we have a responsibility to provide for biking. Others may claim we have a responsibility to beatify our streets. Others will say we have a responsibility to listen to the wishes of a community, so long as they are within the confines of the law. I can’t say who is right or who should be given priority over others.

    Though, I have to disagree with you about ownership. When you commute through those 20 communities, you are a guest. Commuters are certainly a part of the whole, but I would respectfully disagree that you deserve a say in how that neighborhood is constructed just because you pass through twice a day. Attitudes like that are what led to so much of the devastation in our sections of the Bronx, thinking of the commuters instead of the residents, and building highways that ripped neighborhoods apart. Self-determination of a community is one of the principles of environmental justice and one that I happen to believe very strongly in. (http://www.ejnet.org/ej/principles.html)

  • Lucy

    I’m curious. Where is the evidence that adding a treed median speeds up the traffic? I am not agreeing or disagreeing, I have just not heard this before, so am curious as to the reference.

    It does seem to me that the bike lane should be next to the curb, with the parking next to the traffic, instead of the illustrated design. Perhaps the parked cars would slow the traffic more than a bike lane; the bike lane would certainly be better protected.

  • But, they are opinions.

    some are opinions, some are facts.

    What is desirable, perfect, a good idea, or should happen are all opinions. There is no right answer.

    nonsense. when people don’t want to serve black people, that’s wrong, and it’s a fact, even if it’s also an opinion. when someone feels they can erase bike lanes in a neighborhood because they don’t feel like certain people have a right to travel through their neighborhood, that’s wrong, and it’s a fact, even if it’s also an opinion. when someone feels they do not have to provide appropriate bicycle infrastructure, for whatever reason, that’s wrong, and it’s a fact, even if it’s also an opinion.

    You say we have a responsibility to provide for biking.

    i demand the ability to get around under my own power, and i demand the same for everyone who lives within and without the affected neighborhoods.

    I can’t say who is right or who should be given priority over others.

    i can. the law is not perfect, but everyone who claims to want a more decent, just society has a responsibility to stand up for what is right. people who wish to move themselves under their own power deserve priority, period.

    When you commute through those 20 communities, you are a guest.

    really? since when did the streets of the Bronx become privatized, especially the major streets where people, you know, travel? there is some notion of ‘guesthood’, but nobody – no community, no neighborhood, no religion, no race, nobody – should be allowed to infringe on the rights of other to travel freely, under their own power, and with dignity.

    Commuters are certainly a part of the whole, but I would respectfully disagree that you deserve a say in how that neighborhood is constructed just because you pass through twice a day.

    not only does every commuter deserve a say, but every man, woman, and child who would ever want to walk and/or ride to, from, or through the neighborhood. every resident of the Bronx, every taxpayer of New York City and State — indeed, every human. we’ve seen what happens when communities think they can privatize roads — when communities think they are more important than the entire value of our road network — injustice in the extreme. not only do these neighborhoods deprive their own citizens of a decent, safe, dignified place to ride, they also greatly diminish the value of the entire bicycle network — no group should be allowed to inflict this damage on the greater population.

    I’m curious. Where is the evidence that adding a treed median speeds up the traffic?

    none that i know of, other than personal experience. i’ve emailed Tom Vanderbilt to see if he knows anything about the issue.

    there are a bunch of reasons one might build a median, but whatever its desired effects, one effect always rings true for me — when i see a median, it’s ‘Go Time’.

    someone, a traffic engineer or bike ‘advocate’, has instructed me that i am to jam my foot on the accelerator and go go go, because there is absolutely nothing now that can hurt me.

    whichever side of the street i’m on, it’s now effectively a one-way street, which we know induces speed increases.

    i’m sure there are plenty of reasons in the one-way street literature as to why this speeding occurs. there is no chance that any cars will be able to turn in front of me from the opposite direction, so there is no need for me to slow down.

    in this particular case in the Bronx, the street may see overall speed decrease, because of the elimination of lanes and the introduction of bike lanes, but the speed will artificially be jacked up again because of the raised median (as opposed to just paint on the road), and the killer is that we could achieve the same and better speed reductions by actually providing a safe, dignified place for people to ride their bikes instead of protecting cars from one another. and the most effective traffic calming, in this case, will be the soft, squishy humans on bikes. cars no longer have to be careful when they’re driving because there is virtually zero chance that they can now be hurt by each other — the only people who will ever be hurt now are bikers and pedestrians. it’s sick. about the best documented evidence for the justification for medians is that they improve safety for drivers. nice.

  • i found a few references that seem to agree with my intuitions. i’m going to stop reading now, because i’m gonna bust a vessel in my brain:

    Continuous medians are not the most appropriate treatment in every situation. In some cases, separating opposing traffic flow and eliminating left-turn friction can increase traffic speeds by decreasing the perceived friction of the roadway. They may also take up space that can be better used for wider sidewalks, bicycle lanes, landscaping buffer strips, or on-street parking and may cause problems for emergency vehicles. In some environments, medians can be constructed in sections, creating an intermittent rather than continuous median. Another good alternative device for two-, three- or four-lane roads is the crossing island, which provides a crossing refuge for pedestrians and, in some designs, aids in decreasing vehicle speeds.

  • not only does every commuter deserve a say, but every man, woman, and child who would ever want to walk and/or ride to, from, or through the neighborhood. every resident of the Bronx, every taxpayer of New York City and State — indeed, every human. we’ve seen what happens when communities think they can privatize roads — when communities think they are more important than the entire value of our road network — injustice in the extreme. not only do these neighborhoods deprive their own citizens of a decent, safe, dignified place to ride, they also greatly diminish the value of the entire bicycle network — no group should be allowed to inflict this damage on the greater population.

    I agree with Peter here. These are public streets, and the entire public deserves a voice. I think that the community members deserve a greater say than the general public, but they aren’t entitled to absolute control.

    Peter has also convinced me that medians are inappropriate in this particular case. The space should be used either for further sidewalk extensions or bigger buffers for the bike lanes.

  • a similar situation to this can be seen in a recent post at GGW — Speak for Sidewalks:

    This morning, the entire DC Council will consider the Sidewalk Assurance Act, to ensure that political considerations don’t stop sidewalks from going in when DDOT is already reconstructing streets.

    Sidewalks affect everyone who passes through an area, including nearby residents and visitors, and almost all streets not only serve those who live on that block but others who might be traveling to a park, school, bus stop, or neighbor’s house. That’s why we call the space on and adjacent to the roadway “public space,” not private property.

    Bike lanes and sidewalks are not exactly the same thing, but they’re pretty darn close in the functions they serve, including their primary function — allowing people to get around under their own power, in safety and comfort, with dignity, etc.

    The ideal solution would be to have a strong ‘complete streets’ or ‘livable streets’ policy that prioritized non-motorized transport over motorized-transport, made sure walkers and bikers got priority on all reconstructions, and offered something to allow the retrofit process to go forward more smoothly. I think the Netherlands has a policy where all high-speed roadways must provide a protected bike lane — we would, of course, want the same. An ideal law might not outlaw medians outright, but it would make it very very difficult to install them, and impossible if they limited pedestrian and biker mobility.

    There might be some compromise available — like switching the bike lane to the curb side, and put the parked cars out close to the speeding auto traffic – like on 9th Ave.

    But really, medians are a disaster for anyone on a bike, so they can’t be tolerated anymore. Existing medians need to be torn up to make room for bikes, and no new medians should be built.

  • eh – i screwed up some of that quoted material. my bad!

    the paragraph after the ‘…’ is part of the quote:

    Sidewalks affect everyone who passes through an area, including nearby residents and visitors, and almost all streets not only serve those who live on that block but others who might be traveling to a park, school, bus stop, or neighbor’s house. That’s why we call the space on and adjacent to the roadway “public space,” not private property.

    need a Preview button, por favor. ūüôā

  • Bronxite

    We need a Pedestrian/bike bridge connecting Hunts Point and Soundview across the Bronx River via Lafayette Avenue.

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