The Growing Political Muscle of the Campaign for a Verrazano Bike/Ped Path

Photo: Harbor Ring Committee
Photo: Harbor Ring Committee

This Saturday, close to 100 people gathered at the Alice Austen House on the North Shore of Staten Island to demand a walking and biking path across the Verrazano Bridge. And in a sign of the campaign’s growing political potency, several elected officials came out to announce their support for the idea, including Assembly Member Michael Cusick, State Senator Marty Golden, and City Council Member Vincent Gentile.

The bridge path now has the endorsement of nearly every local elected official on each side of the Verrazano. The main question left is whether Governor Cuomo will fix a 50-year-old mistake by Robert Moses and commit to providing walking and biking access between Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Two years ago, when advocates started mobilizing under the banner of the Harbor Ring Committee, such favorable politics were almost unthinkable. James Molinaro, the Staten Island borough president at the time, called the bridge path “absolutely ridiculous.” Today it’s the resistance to a walking and biking path that seems absurd.

The Harbor Ring Committee, which notes that the Verrazano project is the missing link in a 50-mile bikeable circuit around New York Harbor, has gathered more than 3,600 signatures in support of a path. Its advocacy has won over nearly every elected official whose turf touches the Verrazano.

Molinaro’s successor, James Oddo, told the Times he supports a path if the costs are within reason and that the project “would provide an exciting new option for residents to combat our rising obesity epidemic or get to work.” Oddo’s counterpart in Brooklyn, Borough President Eric Adams, also supports the bridge path.

So do City Council members Vincent Ignizio and Debi Rose, Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis, Assembly Member Joseph Borelli, the three electeds who came to Saturday’s rally, and MTA board member Allen Cappelli, a Staten Island resident.

The Verrazano was intentionally built with enough space for walking and biking paths, which Moses then ruled out, purportedly to prevent suicides. In 1997, the firm that designed the bridge, Amman and Whitney, produced a report for the city that pegged the cost of the pathways, adjusted to 2012 dollars, at $50 million. The expense would be a rounding error in the MTA’s upcoming five-year capital program.

The MTA has incorporated a feasibility study for the pathways into a larger project to reconstruct bridge ramps and approaches. The study is due in 2015, and at Saturday’s rally, speakers urged the agency and its consultants, Parsons Brinckerhoff, to conduct the process transparently, so supporters of the path can weigh in before the results are set in stone.

“Fifty years without a Verrazano pathway has been 50 years too long,” said Harbor Ring Committee member Paco Abraham. “Fortunately, now is the right time for change. The bridge is currently undergoing a massive rehab and we know with certainty that our ask is feasible and the demand is unwavering.”

  • Eric McClure

    Build it.

  • Eddie

    I’m surprised the the article doesn’t mention the late Steve Faust, who was the most outspoken advocate of a bike path on the Verrazano.

  • BBnet3000

    This would be so great not only for recreation but for opening up a free way to get between Staten Island and Brooklyn.

    I just hope there would be a follow through with safe and comfortable paths from the bridge to St. George.

    The connection from the Staten Island Ferry to the East River Bikeway could also use an improvement RIGHT NOW. The connection from the “world’s shortest bikeway” in front of the terminal essentially wants you to ride on a sidewalk packed with tourists in front of the Battery Maritime Building right now.

  • Clarke

    No! That’s what the DOT calls “shared space”…you not only get to share it with the tons of people that walk this corridor (and I’ve walked it…and avoid it at all costs because of what a mess it is) but also with all of the trucks that park there for the Gov Island Ferry and for construction work at the Battery Maritime Building and, in the past few months, trucks parked to work on the Montague tubes repair. But don’t worry, the U turn from South St around to get on the FDR going north is unimpeded.

  • dave “paco” abraham

    He was a big help to the Harbor Ring and has been included in many articles about our campaign. We also made mention to him in the speeches during the rally.

  • Boris

    The link about suicides points to a letter to the editor written by Steve Faust.

  • Cold Shoaler

    Build it.

  • Cold Shoaler

    Build it.

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