BENSONHURST — The New York City Department of Transportation will install guardrails along the Belt Parkway in Bensonhurst at a faster pace than originally planned after community leaders and lawmakers requested quick action to increase public safety along the Shore Parkway Promenade, the bike and pedestrian path that sits adjacent to the busy highway.
DOT officials confirmed that they will be putting up guardrails this fall. The original plan was to install the barriers in 2021.
The Belt Parkway runs alongside the Shore Parkway Greenway for several miles along the Gravesend Bay waterfront. There are no guardrails along the section of the eastbound Belt Parkway between Exits 4 and 5 (Bay Eighth Street to Bay Parkway).
“We will begin deployment of Jersey barriers along the Belt Parkway this fall to provide an immediate safety measure in the area of greatest need. We will continue to deploy additional barriers to the roadway as they become available,” a DOT spokesperson told the Home Reporter in an email.
Community Board 11 officials breathed a sigh of relief.
“It’s wonderful news,” Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia said. “Community Board 11 had called on DOT to install guardrails on the Belt from Bay Eighth Street to Bay Parkway following the terrorist attack on the West Side Highway.”
Elias-Pavia was referring to an October, 31, 2017 incident in which a driver plowed into crowds of people in Hudson River Park, killing eight and injuring 11.
“Our promenade is totally exposed,” she said.
The promenade is a popular area that in warm weather is crowded with residents biking, strolling, jogging, roller-blading and fishing, according to local officials.
The community board also put the guardrail project on its list of capital budget priorities for a few years in a row, a sign of how seriously members considered the work.
Councilmember Mark Treyger and Vincent Gentile, who was serving in the City Council at the time, began pushing DOT to install guardrails several years ago.
This past spring, U.S. Rep. Max Rose and Councilmember Justin Brannan, who succeeded Gentile in the Council, held a press conference on the promenade near 17th Avenue to illustrate the danger bike riders and pedestrians face when the only thing separating them from vehicular traffic on the highway is a patch of grass.
“Councilman Treyger and my predecessor Councilman Gentile have been banging the drum on this for years. It’s really a shame we have to scream so loud to get City Hall to pay attention to our community but I’m happy they finally heard our clarion call,” Brannan told the Home Reporter.
“This area has been unprotected and vulnerable for far too long. When they told us it would be another two years just for them to design the guardrail, that’s when I really lost my mind. You have a very popular promenade just a few feet from a highway with cars flying by — there should have been a guardrail here on day one. We’re talking about very basic safety measures; this isn’t something that should be up for debate,” Brannan said.
Rose said he was relieved to hear that DOT is taking action sooner rather than later.
“It shouldn’t have taken this long, but I’m glad the city finally realized the danger my constituents were in so long as this stretch of the Belt Parkway remained unprotected by guardrails,” he said.