Sunday, December 14, 2014

East River Esplanade 81st Street Pedestrian "Prison Bridge" Design Under Fire

A rendering of the proposed design for the East 81st Street pedestrian bridge extending south from Carl Schurz Park along the East River Esplanade includes a 450-foot-long handicap accessible ramp. The Department of Design and Construction's design,  including its eight-foot-high fence has been likened to a prison. The fence which DDC claims is required by regulation to protect cars from objects from being thrown onto FDR Drive will do little to prevent this.  Work on the $ 10 million dollar project is supposed to begin this spring and be completed in June 2016. 

The full board of CB 8 will vote on the issue on Wednesday at their Dec. 17 meeting. 


Members of the city’s Dept. of Design and Construction met with Community Board 8’s transportation committee and residents who live near 81st Street and East End Avenue to discuss plans for a pedestrian bridge connecting the Upper East Side with the East River waterfront that will be built there in the spring,  according to an article in OurTown.

The current bridge does not offer handicap access and is sorely in need of repair, a condition that prompted the city to decide years ago that it should be replaced altogether. 

Discussions surrounding the bridge go back at least five years and have generated no small amount of feedback from the community. A resolution from 2012 articulates the committee’s criticisms of the plan, which include the potential for crime on the bridge, bikers speeding due to its length, and the look of an eight-foot fence that will be installed over FDR Drive and along the ramps.  

A jogger and dog make thier way down to the current deteriorating and non-ADA complaint staircase which will be replaced by a 450 foot long handicap accessible ramp. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge

According to the minutes, the committee asked the Dept. of Transportation and the DDC to install surveillance cameras, safety call boxes and signs on the bridge telling bikers to walk. The minutes from 2012 do note that a number of changes were made to the design, but that the “bridge still does not fit with the surrounding neighborhood.”  

The intervening years have been spent securing funding and coming up with a design, which is now being negotiated at the community board level.

At issue is the way the bridge looks in renderings supplied by the city. Residents who will have to look at it every day say the existing bridge proposal, with its eight-foot-high fence, looks like a prison. And the handicap accessible ramp, at 450 feet, puts a significant damper on views of the East River they say.  

The community is pressing to have a say in an infrastructure project they’ll have to look at every day for the foreseeable future.

For residents who live along the East River, the eight-foot-tall fences on the bridge – which sits over 30 feet above FDR Drive - and ramp mar views of the water.  “There is no question that [the city’s plan] does make a statement and it does block your view,” said Charles Whitman, co-chiar of Community Board 8’s transportation committee.

The committee’s resolution will go before the full board this Wednesday at their Dec. 17 meeting. 

The city says work will begin early next year, according to a spokesperson with the city’s Dept. of Design and Construction. 

“We expect shovels will be in the ground in the spring of next year,” said Howard Pollack, a spokesperson with the Dept. of Design and Construction. “An estimated completion date is June of 2016.”   

The proposed East 81st Street pedestrian bridge extends south from Carl Schurz Park along the East River Esplanade.

Read More:

Our Town - December  9, 2014  - By Daniel Fitzsimmons

Our Town - November 20, 2014  - By Daniel Fitzsimmons

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