It’s been more than three years since NYC DOT announced its full implementation plan for the 14-mile Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a series of 23 capital projects that would build out the biking and walking path in high-quality, permanent materials. At the time, DOT said that construction would begin soon on the Flushing Avenue and West Street segments of the greenway, but with 2015 drawing to a close there’s still no sign of progress. What gives?
Both segments have gone through the community board review process. The Brooklyn CB 1 transportation committee voted for the proposal for West Street in 2012, and in 2013 CB 2 voted in favor of the Flushing Avenue segment, which was supposed to reach the construction phase last fall. As is often the case with capital construction projects, however, the Department of Design and Construction hasn’t implemented the greenway segments according to schedule.
DDC only furnished a vague progress report on the greenway projects, without a timetable, so we turned to Brooklyn Greenway Initiative co-founder Milton Puryear, who says that both the Flushing Avenue and West Street segments of the greenway are fully funded, designed, and ready to go.
Puryear pins the delays on Flushing Avenue and West Street on subsurface infrastructure improvements that must precede greenway construction. The West Street portion, for instance, includes bioswales and high-level sewers that will prevent stormwater from overloading the sewage system and from mixing with raw sewage before it goes into the river.
As the construction timetable drags on and the substantial planning work that went into the greenway recedes further into the past, it can seem like the project’s momentum is slipping. At a mid-November Community Board 1 meeting, for instance, Brian Coleman of the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center complained about the effect of the West Street project on truck traffic, even though the greenway has been subject to extensive review in North Brooklyn.
Puryear emphasized that the project has already gone through an eight-year public planning process involving hundreds of people. To delay it now would be “presumptuous and unfair to all who have put in the hard work to shape the plan over the years,” he said.
The biggest portions of the greenway could be constructed in the next three to four years. In addition to the Flushing and West Street segments, Puryear said the DUMBO portion of the greenway is funded and waiting for DDC to pull the trigger. Southern segments of the greenway, down to Hamilton Avenue, could also break ground in 2016.
Puryear believes a domino effect will lend momentum to the construction process. “I’ve always used it as a proposition that if we get enough of it on the map, the more the public will demand it get completed,” he said.
Still, he keeps his hopes in check. With BGI co-founders Brian McCormick and Meg Fellerath, Puryear has been advocating for the greenway for nearly two decades. While progress has been substantial, with much of the greenway built out in interim phases, it has not been swift. “I thought 14 years ago that half of it would be built in five years,” he said.