Car-Free Parks? Not During This Hudson River Greenway Drive-In Picnic

Driving over a mile on a car-free greenway for that perfect picnic spot? No problem. Photo: Katty Van Itallie

New York City’s parks are supposed to be a respite from the noise and stress of the city. It seems a few people haven’t got the message — and are using the Hudson River Greenway bicycle and pedestrian path as their personal driveway to the Upper Manhattan waterfront.

Reader Katty Van Itallie tells Streetsblog that she was biking on the greenway at about 6:30 p.m. yesterday when she came across a couple of SUVs parked on the grass near the Little Red Lighthouse in Fort Washington Park. The drivers and passengers had set up a sunset picnic nearby. When she snapped some photos, one of the members of the group approached her, telling her not to take pictures of their cars and that they had a permit for the drive-in.

“There would certainly be a permit for a picnic. I can’t speak to the driving,” said Parks Department spokesperson Phil Abramson. UPDATE: “No permits were issued for any kind of event at this park,” Abramson said in an e-mail to Streetsblog.

Van Itallie said she spoke with security guards in the area, contracted by the Port Authority to monitor the George Washington Bridge, who told her that while the cars were not supposed to be there, it was outside their jurisdiction to take action. Earlier on her ride, south of the picnic, Van Itallie passed a police car that had pulled over a driver on the greenway path.

In order to drive to the Little Red Lighthouse, which sits at approximately 178th Street, the drivers most likely would have had to come from the south, since the path to the north is curving, steep and narrow. The nearest auto access point is 155th Street, meaning the drivers must have covered about 23 blocks — more than a mile — on a car-free path during rush hour to reach their destination.

Crews have been rebuilding the park entrance at 158th Street since last year, and there is a gate at 155th Street where construction vehicles can access the park. When Van Itallie passed the gate, it was left open. “It has been left open consistently since they started construction,” Van Itallie told Streetsblog via e-mail.

Automobile drivers illegally using the Hudson River Greenway can pose a serious danger. In 2006, a drunk driver speeding down the greenway in Chelsea killed Eric Ng, who was riding a bike on his way to meet friends.