New Yorkers gathered on Shore Road this weekend to stand either for or against the bike and pedestrian paths possibly coming to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
The Saturday, October 10 rally comes after the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) revealed their master plan for the Verrazano earlier in the week—work that will include improvements and renovations to access ramps, the expansion of lanes, and continued feasibility testing to see if the pedestrian and bike paths are even possible.
“Evaluating the structural needs of the bridge, maintaining [it] in a state of good repair and making sure the bridge remains open, [was] really the first thing that was identified,” said Bernard Kalus, executive vice president of Transportation and Infrastructure at Parsons Brinckerhoff, WSP—the consulting engineers behind the master plan—at a press briefing earlier in the week. “We did extensive traffic and accident studies, and we looked at accident data on the entire facility and the adjoining stretches so we could document it. We did traffic models, traffic simulations, accident investigations and safety studies.”
Advocates for the bike and pedestrian paths—and the organizers of the rally—, Transportation Alternatives (a group of activists fighting for safer streets in New York) alongside The Harbor Ring Committee (a group that advocates for a 50-mile recreational route around the New York Harbor that unites Staten Island, Brooklyn and Manhattan with Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne), made their stance on the matter loud and clear—they want the paths.
“Since the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was built over 50 years ago, elected officials and community leaders from both Brooklyn and Staten Island have called for a connecting path for people on foot and on bike,” Transportation Alternatives said in a statement. “Transportation Alternatives and the Harbor Ring Committee are pleased by this week’s news that the MTA has released initial studies on ways the bridge can accommodate walking and biking paths in the future.”
The Harbor Ring Committee, the driving force behind an online petition started to gain support for the paths, wrote on the petition page that the group is “calling for the construction of pedestrian and bicycle pathways on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and for the MTA to include public input as part of the ongoing study.”
Other rally attendees, like local resident Frankie Marra, are not in support of the paths, calling them a non-priority.
“I’m not really against bike paths or walkways but I think the money should go to repairs for the Shore Road Promenade,” said Marra. “I just think it’s a bad time to be proposing a walkway/bikeway at the cost of $1.5 billion.”
According to Parsons Brinckerhoff, the total cost for the MTA’s master plan rounds out at about the $1.5 billion mark. The bike/pedestrian lane project options are in the $300 to $400 million range alone, according to the consulting firm.
“If we were in a surplus and everything was fine, [I’d say] sure. But right now, middle class families are just trying to stay above the water,” added Marra. “The toll paying, [that] is the priority. [The lanes are] not even in the top two priorities for this neighborhood.”