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Parks Department Can’t Guarantee Safe Alternate Route During Year-Long Brooklyn Greenway Repair

The Shore Parkway greenway is getting a facelift, but where will cyclists and pedestrians go? File photo: Gersh Kuntzman/Graphic: Streetsblog Photoshop Desk

The Brooklyn boss of the Parks Department said he couldn't guarantee a safe passage for cyclists during a proposed year-long shutdown of a piece of the crucial Shore Parkway greenway in 2024.

In late April, Brooklyn Community Board 10 and 11's Parks Committees got a presentation on a proposed repair project for the Shore Parkway Greenway that would close the promenade between the Verrazzano Bridge and Bay Parkway for one year in 2024. During the repair project, the Parks Department will repave the promenade, re-sod grass along the path, repair the seawall and repair a combined sewer outfall near 17th Avenue. Residents and greenway users have been asking for a serious effort to repair the promenade for over a decade, with complaints about potholes and cracks in the road dating back to the halcyon days of 2011.

But the presentation was missing a key piece of information, namely how the Parks Department was going to provide a safe passage for cyclists when the popular route is closed. When questioned about it, Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Martin Maher gave the issue a shrug and a punt.

"I can't make any promises," Maher said when CB10 member Dan Hetteix asked him about an alternate path during the year-long construction project. "We'll consult with the Department of Transportation to see what on street routes are available."

Photos showing the state of the Shore Parkway promenade in Bensonhurst. Photo: Parks Department
Photos showing the state of the Shore Parkway promenade in Bensonhurst. Photo: Parks Department
Photos showing the state of the Shore Parkway promenade in Bensonhurst. Photo: Parks Department

The Parks Department's presentation on the repair project itself was solid, taking seriously concerns about the conditions of the greenway and acknowledging potholes and deteriorating concrete, but advocates said that the city still needed to have a plan to allow people to get around safely while it's being repaired.

"We're thrilled that the Shore Parkway is getting these much-needed repairs, but NYC Parks and DOT need to provide a safe alternative for greenway users during construction," said Brooklyn Greenway Initiative Executive Director Terri Carta. "This segment of greenway is vital to New Yorkers for commuting, leisure, and exercise."

Data from BGI surveys show that 60 percent of greenways users polled on the Shore Parkway under the Verrazzano said that they used the greenway a few times a week and 20 percent of them used the greenway daily, underscoring the need for a safe replacement route during the repair project.

Closing a huge chunk of the greenway without providing a safe alternate route would also fly in the face of Mayor Adams's recent $47.6-million overall greenways commitment, which includes a plan to better connect the Bay Ridge and Coney Island along the Shore Parkway greenway, and his promises to ensure government agencies worked together on big projects instead of at cross-purposes.

Carta pointed out that Adams and agency heads espoused the benefits of greenways at the recent NYC Greenways Summit — so now "we need to see coordination and collaboration toward solutions like safe route alternatives during construction play out in real time," she added.

But the city's idea of what a safe route is might need some work. Even though Community Board 12 asked for a lane on the Henry Hudson Parkway during a repair project on the greenway north of 181st Street, the city insisted on rerouting cyclists up a section of Broadway that local cyclists described as "hilly and extremely dangerous" for bike riders.

For its part, the DOT said that it was willing to step up and find a way to provide safe passage for cyclists and pedestrians during the construction project.

"We are willing to work with NYC Parks to help plan a safe alternative route during the agency’s greenway repair project," said agency spokesperson Vin Barone.

Nonetheless, the plan for repairs was pitched without a replacement path for greenway users. A representative for Council Member Carlina Rivera said that her legislation to create a Greenway master plan and a mayoral-level Office of Active Transportation could prevent situations like this in the future, and that the legislation should get onto the the mayor's desk as soon as possible.

"The Council Member's bill ... would address issues exactly like this one, which is why we’re eager to see it passed," said Alexis Richards, a spokesperson for Rivera.

Rivera's 2019 bill requiring construction crews to maintain protections for cyclists around work zones also applies to city projects.

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