Manhattan CB 6 Backs East River Greenway Connector on 37th Street

Compromise: Image: DOT
The East River Greenway, on the other side of FDR Drive to the right, will have a safer connection to the First and Second Avenue bike lanes after DOT moved parking zones closer to a condominium tower. Image: DOT [PDF]
It’s going to become safer and easier to access the East River Greenway, thanks to a vote last night by Manhattan Community Board 6. In a surprisingly drama-free meeting, the board backed the recommendation of DOT and its own transportation committee for a two-way bike path on a single block of 37th Street, connecting the greenway to First Avenue.

The plan had been modified slightly to accommodate the concerns of residents in the Horizon condominium tower, many of whom stormed CB meetings in June over concerns that the bike lane would block curbside car access to their building. Responding to their opposition, the board requested at its June meeting that DOT relocate the path to the south side of the street.

After that meeting, Council Member Dan Garodnick hosted a tour of the site. According to board members, DOT said a southerly alignment would force cyclists to cross two legs of intersections at the FDR Drive service road and First Avenue and put cyclists in the path of turning drivers, posing an unnecessary traffic safety risk. Despite this, many Horizon residents stood firm in their opposition to the plan.

The current legal route to the greenway puts cyclists on a dangerous section of the FDR Drive service road. “There is no good way to get into Glick Park,” said greenway advocate Scott Baker. “The legal way is actually the most dangerous way.” Last night, Transportation Alternatives volunteer Albert Ahronheim presented a petition signed by 353 people in support of a northern alignment for the bikeway. The signatures were gathered over two recent weekends from people en route to and from Glick Park and the greenway at 37th Street.

DOT came back to the CB 6 transportation committee on Monday with a modified version of its original plan [PDF]. Now, parking and loading zones will be located on the north side of the street, next to the protected bike lane and closer to the condo entrance. The previous plan had parking only on the south side of the street. Flexible bollards will keep drivers from making wide turns across the bikeway at the FDR Drive service road.

The plan will also convert one block of the First Avenue bike lane, from 37th to 38th Streets, to two-way operation and add shared lane markings to 38th Street. These changes will guide greenway-bound cyclists from Second Avenue before they reach the busy Queens Midtown Tunnel entrance.

Despite outcry from a handful of condo residents unsatisfied with the compromise, on Monday the committee voted 7-4 to support the revised plan.

Anticipated opposition at last night’s general board meeting failed to materialize. During the public comment session, five people spoke in favor of the plan and no one spoke against it. The board passed a resolution on voice vote, with only a couple nay votes and one abstention [PDF].

“It seems that people were generally pleased with all the work that went into it,” said CB 6 district manager Dan Miner. “It was not a heavily disputed matter.”

This piece has been updated to include more detail on concerns about a southerly alignment.

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From sudden collapses to botched repairs, the current condition of the East River Greenway is a far cry from the vision of a continuous path on Manhattan’s eastern shore. While filling in the greenway’s gaps could take at least a decade, there are some small, short-term gains on the table. On Monday, Community Board 6’s transportation committee backed […]