By Bill Parry
It took the city’s Department of Transportation nearly four years but they completed the Pulaski Bridge Bikeway in time for the Five BoroBike Tour Sunday. More than 32,000 cyclists rode the dedicated and fully protected two-way bike path on the 0.6 mile span across Newtown Creek connecting Long Island City and Greenpoint, Brooklyn,
For years, cyclists and pedestrians had to share an 8.5-foot path that became more congested as both neighborhoods grew. The bikeway opened to the public last Friday.
“We are thrilled to be opening a new Pulaski Bridge bikeway worthy of Long Island City and Greenpoint, two of our city’s greatest and quickly growing neighborhoods,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “With creativity and teamwork, DOT’s Transportation Planning and Bridges teams have given New York City’s 1,000-mile bicycle network one great new mile.”
The $4.9 million project, which was funded by the city with support from the Federal Highway Administration, took longer than expected to complete due to unique engineering problems on the moveable bascule bridge that opened in 1954. The Pulaski Bridge opens nearly 500 times a year for marine traffic on the waterway below.
“It’s a moveable bridge and that adds to the complexity here,” Deputy Commissioner for Transportation Planning & Management Ryan Russo said. “It was a complex problem. It wasn’t exactly putting a man on the moon, but it was still a complex engineering challenge.”
Russo led a group of elected officials, DOT staff and transportation advocates on an inaugural ride across the bridge from Long Island City. Cyclists say the dedicated path, with its separate pedestrian walkway, is a dramatic improvement.
“I’ve biked on this bridge for many years,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “Newtown Creek is really something. I love Newtown Creek, but that doesn’t mean I want to swim in it anytime soon and there were plenty of times across the bridge where you just didn’t feel safe.”
The latest DOT counts show that 1,500 cyclists use the bridge during peak weekday hours. In the period between 2009 and 2013, cyclist volume on the bridge grew by 106 percent, while pedestrian use increased 47 percent.
“The opening of this protected bikeway is going to encourage even more people to walk and bike between Brooklyn and Queens,” City Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) said. “The best was to get people outside and active tto make them feel safe and comfortable, and this project does just that.”
Denise Kearns, the Chairwoman of Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee, said the new bikeway will bring more visitors to Long Island City’s five waterfront parks, its 30 cultural arts and cultural institutions and venues and its 150 restaurants, bars and cafes.
“Everyone knows it’s tough to find parking in Long Island City,” she said. “And now people from Brooklyn can cycle in and that’s good for business. In Sunnyside and Woodside too.”
Van Bramer agreed that parking is an issue.
“Not having more cars is a good thing ” he said. “But this is all about safety. Now it’s easier and safer for pedestrians and cyclists to travel between Brooklyn and Queens. For the last four years, I have advocated for this project that is vital to the neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Long Island City, and today, I’m so glad to see it completed.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr