Officials say wait yet another year to reopen bike path

Downtown Express photo by Yannic Rack  Cyclists at the northern end of the construction on Vesey St.
Cyclists at the northern end of the construction on Vesey St. Downtown Express photo by Yannic Rack

BY YANNIC RACK  |  It’s been a common sight in Battery Park City for years now: Cyclists, often tourists, rushing by on the popular Hudson River Greenway, the busiest bike path in the whole country, come to a sudden halt at Vesey or Albany Sts. After initial confusion, they usually continue their path along the North Cove Marina, where a few orange signs have diverted them since the bike path was closed here in 2007.

“It’s so little but the disruption is huge,” said Charles Komanoff during a recent evening commute via the Greenway. Komanoff, 66, a traffic analyst and cycling advocate, can’t understand how the path has been closed for such a “grotesquely long” time.

“Thousands and thousands of people who live here and work here, who visit here, and who enjoy that public space – their enjoyment is compromised by the fact that all kinds of people on bikes go through there. And we go through there because we have no alternative.”

The bike path, in its entire length, runs from Dyckman St. in the north to Battery Park in the south along the West Side of Manhattan. It’s especially popular among cyclists for its length and because it runs separated from motor traffic and, on many sections, pedestrians as well.

But for seven years, the short 0.3 mile stretch from Vesey to Albany St. has been blocked off completely due to construction work in front of Brookfield Place (formerly the World Financial Center).

“It’s very confusing because different people are responsible for different parts,” said Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1. “But the community is very concerned at this particular point with making sure that the pedestrians and the traffic can safely coexist at the intensive levels that we’re getting now.”

Although signs diverting pedestrians and cyclists through the marina on the other side of Brookfield Place are in place, many complain about the inconvenience and extra time it takes to find their way through Battery Park City.

“I don’t even know where I am,” said Angus Herselman, 63, when he was forced to stop at the northern interruption of the path.

Herselman was visiting the city from South Africa with his wife and they were trying to get back to their hotel on their CitiBikes. “There’s a lot of construction around here, makes it very tricky,” he added.

Not only tourists are affected by the changes, although regulars to the bike path have long become accustomed to the disruption.

“This would never happen in Germany, it would never happen in Japan, it would never happen in the Netherlands, it wouldn’t happen in Paris,” said Komanoff. “New York is now a big biking place, so where is the screaming? No one can believe that the return of the bike path isn’t just around the corner.”

The Battery Park City Authority as well as the New York State Department of Transportation expect the construction work to be completed and the bike path to reopen sometime late next year.

A Transportation Department spokesperson said in an email that the section has been closed for years because there were multiple agencies performing work at the site and said that completion of the bike path has been “contingent upon other work being completed in earlier stages.”

The Port Authority, according to State D.O.T., needed to divert the bike- and walkways in 2007 in order to construct the underground pedestrian concourse connecting the World Trade Center and the World Financial Center. Together with Brookfield, the Port Authority then constructed the pavilion at the western end of the concourse connecting it to the Winter Garden.

After this, in 2013, the D.O.T. started working on the reconstruction of the bike- and walkway along Route 9A, which took until late spring of this year. Currently Brookfield and the B.P.C.A. “are renovating the ground floors of WFC #2 and #3 for commercial use (Brookfield Place) which will include shops and restaurants. B.P.C.A. is also performing pile maintenance/rehabilitation work under the WFC. Because of the schedule to complete the pavilion and restrictions related to the turtle mating season, this work can only take place between April 1st and October 31st,” according to the statement.

Once this is completed, the D.O.T. will be able to finish work on the bike path. “It is scheduled to be substantially completed by fall of 2015,” the statement reads, an estimate the B.P.C.A. confirmed.

This part of the West St. bikepath has been closed since 2007.
This part of the West St. bikepath has been closed since 2007.

According to the Transportation Dept., Brookfield needs access “on our right of way outside the buildings for their construction-related activities.”

A Brookfield spokesperson referred inquiries to state D.O.T., who are “in charge. We’re not doing any construction there. It’s all D.O.T. and B.P.C.A.,” she said.

A Battery Park City Authority spokesperson said “other factors contributing to the extended timeline for completion include financial negotiations between the funding partners as well as the sequencing of work being performed by multiple agencies.”

“There is no way for bikes to pass it all on the east side,” Hughes said, referring to the 9/11 Memorial. “And that’s why the west side is so important.”

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