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BACK OPEN: City Swaps Barricades for Bollards After Abruptly Closing Queensbridge Greenway

The Parks Department reopened the greenway path through Queensbridge Park less than 48 hours after Streetsblog reported the abrupt, unexplained closure.

12:01 AM EDT on October 27, 2023

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.|

And we’re back: Parks removed the fence and installed bollards at Queensbridge Park’s greenway on Oct. 26.

Ask, and it shall be open.

The city reopened the greenway path through Queensbridge Park on Thursday, less than 48 hours after Streetsblog reported the abrupt, unexplained closure of a crucial cycling route along the Queens side of the East River. 

Parks Department shuttered access to the greenway through the park some time in recent weeks due to concerns raised by a local Council Member Julie Won about mopeds and drivers allegedly intruding on the lawns and endangering kids and the elderly in the area. But Parks, which never provided an explanation for the closure to Streetsblog, even more abruptly removed the chained fencing sometime Thursday and replaced it with three bollards. 

Won met with the agency earlier that day and ask them to “resolve” the lockdown, she said. The new bollards are intended to keep cars out of the park, according to an email from her chief of staff obtained by Streetsblog. 

Local cyclists and advocates expressed relief that officials decided to unlock the entrance, but continued to express their anger over the city removing a bike lane without notice. 

“I’m glad that the path is open again, but it’s just a ridiculous saga to go through only to end up back where we started, with the sensible solution of bollards,” said Anjali Bhat, a Queens attorney who uses to greenway to bike to work. 

Bhat noticed the closure more than a week ago and asked Won's office for more information. After Streetsblog exposed the debacle Tuesday night, the pol and Parks sprung into action — even as Parks failed to provide a clear explanation or timeline for the closure.

The closure left cyclists without a protected bike lane alternative, since the Department of Transportation a decade ago left a gap in the segment of the adjacent Vernon Boulevard bike lane that runs along the park to save 35 car parking spots.

That gap leaves the park path as the only protected route for cyclists riding the Vernon Boulevard bike lanes. The sudden appearance of barricades at park entrances forced two-wheelers into the busy street with no protection from cars. 

“We shouldn’t let gaps like this persist in the network, because forcing people who are trying to get from point a to point b to take meandering detours isn’t logical and realistic,” said Laura Shepard, Queens organizer for Transportation Alternatives.

When Bhat and her neighbors, recently organized on Reddit around street safety, reached out to Won for more information, the elected’s office initially took credit for the move.

"To safeguard our little ones and provide parents with peace of mind, we decided to temporarily close the bike path," said in an email to Bhat, citing "an influx of e-bikes and cars" entering the park. 

Blocked: The city fenced off the northern entrance to the greenway in Queensbridge Park citing e-bikes and cars intruding on the space. Photo by Alex Duncan

A rep for Won later told Streetsblog that the "we" the staffer was referring to was Parks, not Won's office, and that the agency was ultimately responsible for the closure. 

In the follow-up email to constituents Thursday afternoon about the reopening, Won's office said “many community members from Queensbridge have complained about” cars in the park in recent months — but added that the pol “understand[s] the concerns and the vision we all share for a safe and contiguous bike path.”

Won is also working with DOT and the New York City Housing Authority to install fences and bollards to keep drivers from getting into a nearby offshoot of the greenway known as Queensbridge “Baby” Park, which has long suffered illegal parking issues, the email said.

Won declined multiple requests for comment on Wednesday and Thursday, refusing to tell Streetsblog whether she supports a continuous protected bike lane on Vernon Boulevard. 

The Parks Department also did not respond for clarification about when it closed the gates or why.

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