Parks Dept Allows Catering Hall to Fence Off Staten Island Greenway

si_fence.jpgA Staten Island catering hall erected this jury-rigged greenway-blocking fence and laid down a makeshift paintjob that "erases" markings on the path. They added the courteous touch of caution tape after cyclist Gregory DeRespino slammed into the fence. Photo: SI Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel

The New York City Parks Department has come up with a striking new method to demean pedestrians and cyclists and disrupt the public right-of-way.

Parks has allowed a catering hall called the Vanderbilt ("Staten Islands only oceanfront ballroom") to fence off a portion of the greenway running alongside the boardwalk in South Beach, according to a report in the Staten Island Advance. The fence forces greenway users to turn around and detour to Father Capodanno Boulevard, and it’s already claimed a victim: Local resident Gregory DeRespino landed in the hospital with injuries to his shoulder, neck and calf, after unsuspectingly biking into the fence the morning it went up.

Vanderbilt manager Joe Tranchina received permission from Parks to put up the fence after pitching it as a safety precaution to reduce conflicts between greenway users and the restaurant’s delivery vehicles and valet service. Apparently, someone at Parks gave the green light "on a trial basis," according to a department spokesperson quoted by the Advance.

You’ve got to wonder how the city allowed such an idea to reach this point. A private business just convinced Parks to let it block off the public right-of-way and "erase" street markings with what looks to be a hasty paintjob. Did they even have to fill out any paperwork, or does it just take a few phone calls? Neither the Parks Department nor Tranchina have returned our requests for information so far.

Hat tip to Meredith Sladek for alerting us to this story.

  • This is great news! I had no idea it was so easy for private citizens to make such huge changes to the city’s transportation infrastructure with chain-link fencing!

    Which waterfront expressway should we fence off first? I’m thinking we could fence off portions of the FDR to finally give East Side residents the much-needed open space they deserve! Ooh! How about the triple-cantilever portion of the BQE? With all of the money being poured into Brooklyn Bridge Park, it would be a shame for this new public space to be marred by auto traffic zooming by!

  • jsd

    The owners of that (overrated) establishment are what you would like to call connected. As is our highly esteemed Borough President.

    That is a heavily used section of the park. Hopefully the coverage this is getting in the press will pressure the Parks Dept to see the light and pull the plug on this ridiculous back room deal.

  • MarcusW

    What in the world were the delivery vehicles and valet service doing on the greenway in the first place? It’s a greenway, not a street for motor vehicles. If their lot isn’t big enough for their business, that’s not the city’s problem to solve by taking away public parkland.

  • I suspect that the sudden crack-down on bicyclists traveling to the Greenway in Riverside Park by PEP is also due to complaints by individuals who are “well-connected.”

  • J

    Seriously?? It’s nice to know that the Parks Department is looking out for the best interest of New Yorkers who are starved for outdoor recreation space.

    Also, doesn’t the sacrifice of public parkland require an EIS and a replacement somewhere else.

  • Glenn

    Stuff like this needs to be investigated for corruption $$$

  • What a coincidence, I was going to do the same thing on Lexington Avenue. Everyone who lives in my building walks across that street a lot, and sometimes drivers honk at us. It’s just a trial, don’t worry, you can back down the road and detour to Park Ave.

  • Contact the Parks Commissioner:
    http://nyc.gov/html/mail/html/maildpr.html

    I submitted,

    The Parks Department is not, or at least should not be, authorized to give away park or NYC Greenway space to a private individual or company, and by doing so, exclude the public from the space.

    It seems that is what the Department has done near the Vanderbilt catering hall on Staten Island.

    Please remove the fence that blocks the public from entering a portion of the NYC Greenway and its bike path near the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Boardwalk in South Beach.Thank you.

  • Mr Bad Example

    This area is one of my favorite recreational rides in the city–we rent a Zipcar & spend the day biking and having lunch at the boardwalk cafe.

    Who at Parks department gets the angry letter about this?

  • fdr

    The Parks Dept has Borough Commissioners, the one for Staten Island is Thomas Paulo, according to their web site his phone number is 718-390-8004 and his fax is 718-390-8080.

  • JK

    TA should go to court with parks advocates, NYCLU and others and get this removed immediately. You cannot close a public right of way with no public process for the benefit of a private business. This is not an emergency, and does not call for the use of police emergency powers. I’d think a complaint can include Art 78 signage and notice requirements, violations of MUTCD and possibly state laws defining parks, demapping and right of way. This is totally unacceptable.

  • Sean put his finger on this situation recently–that it’s okay for officialdom to disrupt and remove bicycle lanes at the drop of a hat (Bedford Avenue, Riverside Park, now the Staten Island Greenway) but any similar reduction to motorist space requires months of review, community board input, an EIS or worse.

  • The reverse holds true, of course, when it comes to adding bicyclist space vs. motorist space.

  • Tom

    Someone needs to investigate if anyone did get some money for allowing this.

  • jsd

    I contacted the Parks Commissioner as well.

    “I am writing to inform you of my disappointment with the Parks Department for allowing the Vanderbilt catering hall in the South Beach section of Staten Island to arbitrarily impose its will upon public land. As an employee of the National Park Service, I know the public good served by major recreation outlets in high density areas. The Gateway National Recreation Area (which is connected to the South Beach Boardwalk by the currently blocked Greenway) was founded on such principles.

    The Vanderbilt should not be using the Greenway to offload delivery trucks. This is not a place for motorized vehicular traffic. If they have been given the right to do so, it should be done at the pleasure and convenience of those using the Greenway for its intended purposes.

    I urge you to consider the right of the public to this land, and not the will of a private organization.”

  • Ed Ravin

    reminds me of when the Parks Department did something similar to the North Bronx Bikeway, installed around 1979 but several years later Parks turned a part of it, on a park median at Pelham Parkway and Westchester Ave, into a parking lot, for both Parks vehicles and a restaurant across the street. The bikeway was probably long forgotten then, but it was installed with Federal funds so they probably didn’t have the right to destroy it like that.

    in the 1990’s or so I raised this with Parks when they issued a tender for use of that parking lot, they were somewhat embarrased but held firm to its conversion into a lot. they did eventually fix up the dirt path behind the park building that had substituted for bike access after they stole the original bikeway route.

  • Zufechten

    It’s hard to say for sure just from one photo, but it certainly looks like the parks department and/or caterer violated the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and the Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility rules by blocking off an accessible route without a signed detour to another accessible route.

    I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that Mr. DeRespino has a case. Federal regs clearly were breached, and the breach resulted in harm. Sounds like liability to me.

  • dporpentine

    Ugh. This is disgusting.

  • The comments on the Staten Island Advance article are a pathetic example of how some people see the world through their windshield.

  • That’s outrageous!

  • Emily Litella

    I’m speechless.

  • ddartley

    I look forward to finding out if Sblog ever hears back from the Parks Department.

  • DDua

    Big Money Rules Again!!!! Privatization of our public spaces at
    one of it’s finest again. Good going Park’s Department and What’s Next
    Joe Tranchina? Money money money. I hope someday you live in a mansion with lots of cold hard cash – locked from the outside – no way to get out into the world, much less the Parks. Looks like you’re following Manhattan’s Privatization of the Parks! They are doing a SMASHING job of owning it all!

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