Pedestrian bridge in Bayside is coming down

Pedestrian bridge in Bayside is coming down
Photo by Mark Hallum
By Mark Hallum

Representatives from the Queens DOT commissioner’s office announced at Community Board 11’s meeting Monday night that the 216th Street pedestrian bridge in Bayside will be dismantled with no plans for a replacement. The decision comes after the concrete foundations underneath the two sides supporting the structure was found to be in decline in 2006.

The rickety structure of twisting, rusted steel and cracked concrete connects the north and south ends of Bayside, cut in half by the LIRR’s Port Washington Line.

Transportation Planner from DOT Richard Gippetti said plans for a new, ADA-accessible overpass were shot down by the community board on the basis that the winding ramp for wheelchair-bound users did not fit the aesthetic desired. DOT said the bridge’s deterioration has reached the level where it must be demolished as a public safety measure which cannot be avoided with repairs.

Gipetti told the crowd assembled in the MS 158 auditorium that because the handicap-accessible bridge was not approved by the community, no bridge at all will be permitted to take its place.

The pedestrian bridge is expected to be closed as early as the end of November, Giapetti said.

“The plan right now is to ultimately take down the bridge,” Gipetti said. “We did work with the Department of Design and Construction on an option and that option was not approved, so there is no plan to replace the pedestrian bridge. It’s something we can look to in the future, but right now our interest is in safety.”

Susan Seinfeld, district mManager for CB 11, said the ADA-compliant plans were presented by the Department of Design and Construction at a public hearing in 2008, but following an “outpouring of opposition” from the public they were rejected by the community board.

Residents are urged to cross the railroad tracks at either Bell Boulevard or 221st Street for safety reasons.

“Because the bridge will only be rebuilt as an ADA-compliant bridge, the design our engineers had determined had multiple switchbacks, so it was no longer just a single staircase scaling the bridge,” Gipetti said, explaining how ADA-compliant ramps requires a certain grade for people in hand-powered wheelchairs to ascend.

Community members reacted with confusion at the knowledge the bridge would be scrapped without being replaced and questioned the DOT officials about where residents, especially children headed for school would be expected to cross.

Gipetti said the city agency is now working with the Long Island Rail Road to determine an exact time frame for removing the steel and concrete structure that does not conflict with commuter schedules.

The 216th Street bridge will be following the pedestrian overpass at the Little Neck station of the LIRR’s Port Washington line to the scrap yard. It was taken down in mid-September and is pending replacement.

MTA police have been on high alert for illegal crossings at dangerous points along the tracks, an LIRR spokesman said in October.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.