Parks and DOT: Still No Timeline for Reopening Key Uptown Greenway Bridge

Frustrated with the lack of information from the city, locals will rally at the bridge on Sunday.

Here's how the bridge looked when it was abruptly closed in August. Photo: Liz Marcello
Here's how the bridge looked when it was abruptly closed in August. Photo: Liz Marcello

One month after the Parks Department and the Department of Transportation shuttered a key link in the uptown segment of the Hudson River Greenway, the agencies have yet to announce a timeline for it to be repaired and reopened.

Upper Manhattanites are fuming that the city has failed to keep the public updated about the future of the bridge.

“I don’t even know who to complain to,” said Liz Marcello of Washington Heights. “You can’t just block this major thoroughfare and expect that no one is going to get angry. It’s totally insane.”

The bridge — which runs through Fort Washington Park just north of the George Washington Bridge, parallel to 181st Street — has been out-of-commission since August 24, the day after Streetsblog ran a story calling attention to its shabby condition. The Parks Department promised “immediate repairs” and attributed the closure to “an abundance of caution,” but neither it nor DOT has provided any other details.

“Was it about to collapse and they just didn’t tell us until we started tweeting about it?” asked Marcello. “Why did they shut it down only after we started complaining about?”

Streetsblog has reached out repeatedly to both agencies as well as Amtrak, which owns the tracks beneath the bridge, demanding a timeline for repairs and a description of what structural repairs the bridge currently requires. The agencies won’t talk.

It didn’t have to turn out this way: A full rehabilitation of the bridge has been in the works for nearly a decade, and the design process finally wrapped up last month. That project was supposed to begin in the second half of 2019, Parks spokesperson Crystal Howard said recently. The current closure is apparently only for “interim repairs.”

With the bridge closed, uptown bike commuters must either take local streets down to the 158th Street entrance or opt for a mulched-covered path that cuts through the park over a George Washington Bridge emergency on-ramp.

“It’s pretty much a seven-day-a-week disruption in my commuting,” said Sierra Pasquale, also of Washington Heights. Pasquale said she initially took the Parks-recommended detour on local streets, but DOT construction on 158th Street made the route unsafe. Now, she opts for the mulched path.

“The detour they were sending it on was more dangerous than going through the woods,” she said.

On Sunday, Marcello and Pasquale will rally on the north side of the bridge to agitate the city to hasten the repairs and get it back open as soon as possible.

“I would hope it would inspire more people to get directly in touch with parks and DOT,” Marcello said. “If enough people complain about it, they’ll fix it — or they’ll at least provide us information.”

Hundreds of cyclists per day need that bridge to continue on the Greenway, whose Midtown and Downtown sections are the busiest bike path in the country.

  • qrt145

    I wouldn’t be surprised if fixing this tiny ped/bike bridge ends up taking longer than it took to build the GWB from scratch…

  • Daphna

    This bridge could be treated as a pedestrian and bike only bridge going forward. NYPD and the Parks Department could be told that they can not drive their vehicles over it. Then, in theory, it could be fixed or re-built so as to be safe for use cheaply and quickly — in theory.

  • crazytrainmatt

    The 158th entrance has a series of ramps down from Riverside to the ball courts under the viaduct.

  • crazytrainmatt

    I need to go this way on Monday — is there a better description of the detour through the park?

    It seems coming from the north, you leave the greenway at the switchback down the the closed bridge, near where the access-a-ride van jumped through the stone barrier a few years back. I guess that’s the “emergency on-ramp” you cross? Then you pass alongside the northbound parkway to the east of the GWB foundation. Then through the woods — I guess this is the mulched bit? And finally there must be an underpass to cross the southbound parkway/exit ramp to the tennis court bridge?

    Years ago I tried exploring once going up from the staircase south of the tennis courts. I think I ended up on Haven just south of the GWB but the path was completely deserted with fresh homeless or druggie camps and a dark underpass with a blind corner under the highway so I never did that again.

  • Daphna

    Thanks for that info. I have searched for that entrance/exit and never found it.

  • Sierra

    That’s where the detour is. It is better now, and to the NYC Parks credit, it has been cleaned up, but I for sure wouldn’t ride it at night.

  • Alec

    Take Ft. Washington Ave to 165th to Riverside south to the new Farrell Pedestrian Bridge at 151st – easiest access to the greenway – no steps and several switchbacks for heading back uphill. For going uptown, do that in reverse.

  • Daphna

    Maybe go out there with some bolt cutters and a battery powered angle grinder and “open” the bridge. It apparently was not a safety hazard in the eyes of the Parks Department or Dept. of Transportation until Streetsblog raised awareness about it. If Streetsblog had not written an article about it, would that bridge still be open?

  • Chriscc63

    I have been taking the workaround twice a week and its terribly inconvenient and somewhat dangerous on a road bike. The parks dept put down mulch on the trail but its all wet and muddy and on a seep incline, not an enjoyable road bike ride.

  • Michael Zuko

    I’ve been taking the new Farrell Pedestrian bridge, entrance on the sidewalk at Riverside & 153rd St (as Alec had mentioned below). IMHO, since the AMTRAK bridge doesn’t generate revenue, it’s not a priority, and will take some time before it’s open again.

  • Maggie

    Amtrak had its Empire Service trains rerouted so they weren’t using this track this whole past summer, Memorial Day to Labor Day.

    I get why the city is scrambling to fix the bridge now, but if I was Amtrak and the city was suddenly asking to do emergency repairs on a bridge less than 2 weeks after a 14-week closure finished, I’d also be thinking WTF.

    At the end of the day, NYC should designate a bike mayor soon, and maybe put that person under Climate/OneNYC, so that issues like this are foreseen and dealt with better.

  • DoctorMemory

    “Scrambling” is maybe the wrong word to describe a process that seems to involve fencing off the bridge and then doing absolutely nothing else for now weeks turning into months. 🙁