Behold Denny Farrell’s $24 Million Greenway Bridge

Named for the recently-retired Farrell, the new connection between Hamilton Heights and the Hudson River Greenway is a nice amenity. Maybe a little too nice.

The pedestrian and bicycle bridge connecting 151st Street to the Hudson River Greenway opened last week.
The pedestrian and bicycle bridge connecting 151st Street to the Hudson River Greenway opened last week.

This summer, Governor Andrew Cuomo and longtime Assembly Ways and Means Chair Herman “Denny” Farrell agreed to some mutual back-scratching. Cuomo’s overbuilt, $5 billion Tappan Zee Bridge replacement would be named for his father Mario, and Riverbank State Park, considered a legacy of the retiring Assembly member, would be renamed for Farrell.

Also named for Farrell: a new $24.4 million pedestrian bridge connecting 151st Street to the Hudson River Greenway, spanning the Henry Hudson Parkway. On September 5, Farrell’s last day in office, Cuomo celebrated the completion of the Herman “Denny” Farrell Pedestrian Bridge, which opened to the public last week. (Construction didn’t come without hiccups on this state-funded project. Originally set to wrap up in late 2016, contractors were forced to take down and redo the bridge abutments after they failed a quality-control inspection.)

Better access to the waterfront for walkers, bikers, and wheelchair users is good to have here. The nearest access points at 148th Street and 155th Street have stairs, not ramps.

As you can see in these photos, submitted by a reader, the state DOT spared no expense. Walking and biking infrastructure should be durable and high-quality, but the extravagance of the structure should give us some pause. As should the fact that it was secured by Farrell, who had extraordinary influence over state spending as Ways and Means chair.

Our tipster notes that the greenway just south of these ramps is a bumpy, bone-rattling mess. The city Parks Department is counting on relatively small participatory budgeting grants to fund improvements to the nearby Cherry Walk section of the path. Why can New York’s various arms of government deliver a gold-plated greenway connection but have such difficulty maintaining the greenway itself?

These ramps on the west side of the highway connect the new bridge to Riverbank State Park.
These ramps on the west side of the highway connect the new bridge to the greenway and Riverbank State Park.

Was this greenway bridge the best use of $24 million for walking and biking? Crossings with ramps aren’t too far away, at 135th Street and 158th Street.

What are the other infrastructure priorities for active transportation in and around Farrell’s Upper Manhattan district? How does this project rate compared to, say, the biking and walking improvements NYC DOT wants to build on the Macombs Dam Bridge and 145th Street Bridge over the Harlem River? Was any system used to rank different options? Could a project delivering the same public benefit have been built for less, enabling public funds to be distributed to other needs as well?

The fact is, the clearest discernible reason this project materialized the way it did is that Denny Farrell wanted it. In that way, this bridge is like a miniature version of Cuomo’s Tappan Zee replacement, or Cuomo’s Moynihan Train Hall.

In New York, who knows if you’ll ever get well-maintained greenways or reliable transit. The one thing that’s certain is you’ll get to use edifices named after your local political barons.

  • Vooch

    $25 million builds 50 miles of PBL.

    Imagine adding 50 miles of PBLs to Manhattan north of 110th.

  • com63

    Is the complaint about the type of bridge, or the fact that they built a bridge here at all?

  • drosejr

    Farrell was one of Shelly’s henchmen, and was a solid vote against congestion pricing up in Albany. Surprised that a legislator with a staunch windshield perspective lobbied for a ped bridge. Must have needed his name on it to agree to earmark the funds. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Denny.

  • KeNYC2030

    Right on. The Cherry Walk was first paved in 2000 with a projected life of 15 years, tops. The pavement, with numerous root upheavals, is now a dangerous mess, as you say. And it’s also completely unlit. The Parks Dept. estimates at least $5 million to repave and light. Participatory budgeting monies won’t even come close to this. There isn’t even money for short-term patches or lighting by itself. I bet a great bridge could have been built for $19 million and the balance used to make the Cherry Walk safe again, but that’s not the way government works in these cases. There’s no overarching vision.

  • Crazytrainmatt

    Nice bridge but there is no protected bike connection at the top of the hill.

    From the point of neighborhood mobility, besides the cherry walk, imagine a level PBL route to Central Park on St. Nicks/Morningside, or filling in the gaps in the east side greenway between 145-155 (some cantilever needed), between 123-133rd (is the never used new section they built STILL rotting away waiting for the bridge staging lot to clear out?), or the ramp at E 81st (the only progress in 10 months is a dozen feet of fencing)…

  • Knut Torkelson

    Not to mention there is no lighting on the cherry walk, so at night northbound you are completely blinded by oncoming southbound cars headlights from the WSH

  • JK

    I’ve been biking the new 151st bridge. As the article points out, it’s odd, like a spaceship landed in the middle of the night and nobody noticed. There is no signage or markings on the greeenway side of the bridge directing bike/ped traffic to it, nor is there signage or marking on the Riverside Drive side telling cyclists they can get to the greenway. It’s actually very easy to miss the connection on the greenway side because the bridge entrance is on the other side of a parking lot. Per Ken Coughlin, it’s head scratching that the greenway proper is in such dangerous disrepair, narrow and unlit just a short distance from this gigantic connector. Maybe Parks Dept can call Denny up and beg for a few thousand dollars to smooth out the most dangerous pavement upheavals. He probably still has a few friends in Albany.

  • MatthewEH

    I’m not typically on the Cherry Walk after dark. The one time I did it I was completely shocked at how blinding the oncoming headlights were. I nearly crashed into an oncoming southbound cyclist who was, cleverly, not riding with a light at all.

  • You’d think Goldman Sachs or some other big NYC corporation would happily finance the renovation of the greenway to to world-best standards as a PR exercise.

    Or paint it green and let Wrigley’s chewing gum pay for it.

  • AMH

    Exactly. That area is in far more urgent need of improvement.

  • redbike

    Lighting for Cherry Walk would be great, but a not-so-bad alternative is repaving the surface using Glassphalt. Glassphalt uses recycled glass instead of gravel as the aggregate. Glassphalt’s surface is retroreflective: for cyclists with working headlights, seeing the path is easy.

  • KeNYC2030

    Interesting. I’ll propose it.

  • JK

    There’s kind of a zone of crap that cyclists heading to northern Manhattan on the west side have to cross during the weekday, PM peak, especially when it’s dark. Cherry Walk section of Hudson greenway is terrible after dark because of headlight glare and invisible pavement bumps; Riverside Dr is jammed bumper to bumper and drivers are fuming; Broadway is a chaotic mess; Amsterdam has either 2x parking or speeding. Doesn’t get OK until Morningside/Convent or St Nick.

  • cjstephens

    Let’s hope no one ever gives in to calling these structures by the names the politicians try to anoint them with. Luckily most New Yorkers are smart enough not to get fooled into calling them the Carey Tunnel or the RFK Bridge. I hope that Cuomo’s legacy is that no one ever calls the Tappan Zee Bridge by any name other than “Tappan Zee”. And what ever happened to waiting until someone is dead before naming something after them?

  • cjstephens

    You want to know why upper Manhattan has such lousy infrastructure? Because the voting public of upper Manhattan kept voting for crooks like Denny Farrell. Sometimes people get what they deserve. Democracy in action!

  • Carey and Koch were dead when the stupid renamings took place, as were RFK and Cuomo.

    Anyway, it’s true that most of these renamings are not quickly accepted, and that the real names fortunately tend to persist. The problem, however, is when the signs show only the new name and not the real name — there are kiddies who don’t even know that the Jackie Robinson Parkway is actually the Interboro. I believe that it should be legal to give a wedgie to anyone who says “Jackie Robinson Parkway”. And uttering “Joe DiMaggio Highway” ought rightfully to merit an invervention of an even more extreme variety.

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