CB 7 Endorses Year-Round Parks Department Greenway Detour

The detour will compel cyclists to climb an incline at the 79th Street Rotunda. The Parks Department could not say how steep these slopes are. Image: NYC Parks Department

Based on scant justification from the Parks Department, yesterday Manhattan Community Board 7 voted in favor of a permanent detour for cyclists along the Hudson River Greenway between 72nd Street and 83rd Street. Amendments to keep the main path accessible to cyclists during off-peak times either failed or were not considered, in part because board chairs Roberta Semer and Klari Neuwelt were in a hurry to finish the meeting.

The detour would take cyclists off the flat path by the river and route them onto a hilly trail that ascends a steep incline by the 79th Street Rotunda. It would also put bike traffic within a few feet of motorists exiting the Henry Hudson Parkway near the 79th Street boat basin.

The Parks Department, which controls this part of the greenway, says the detour is necessary to reduce conflicts between people walking and people on bikes. But while crowding is undoubtedly a problem at some times, Parks provided no data to assess when it is most severe or how it affects people. Nor did the agency provide quantitative information about how its detour plan, which would be in effect 24 hours a day year-round, would affect cyclists.

The Parks Department wants to start the detour, which is supported by City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, next year.

Last night CB 7 rejected amendments that would have made the greenway available to cyclists when pedestrian traffic is low, at night and during cold weather. One of the amendments would have passed if Semer and Neuwelt had been a little more patient, reports board member Ken Coughlin:

When they carved out the two parts of the amendment — hourly and seasonal — they should have started with the more radical provision, the hourly change, then gone to the more inclusive one, seasonal. The vote for seasonal … failed, but because of the reversal in the logical order of voting on the two parts of the amendment, a longstanding board member was confused and failed to vote for seasonal even though he supported it. The two chairs running the meeting were apparently aware of this but refused to agree to a re-vote because they were anxious to get on with the meeting, despite the strenuous protestations of former chair Mel Wymore about the reversal in voting order. If there had been a re-vote, the seasonal amendment would have passed. [The vote was 20-20 with one abstention, according to Coughlin, which is one vote shy of passing.]

Then, also in the interest of getting on with the meeting, the chairs refused to allow me to offer another amendment, which would have been for a summertime pilot of the reroute before committing to year-round.

So because some CB 7 members wanted to get home a little earlier than they would have had the process been allowed to play out properly, cyclists will be forced to endure a substandard and arguably dangerous reroute year-round. I have never seen such a bungled vote and disregard of parliamentary procedure in my seven and a half years on the board.

Attorney Steve Vaccaro, who attended the meeting, said some opponents of the detour were not allowed to speak. Some ceded their allotted time to Vaccaro, but Semer and Neuwelt cut him off several minutes before his time was up. Vaccaro said limitations imposed on public input last night were inconsistent with what was “commonly allowed among opponents to the Columbus and Amsterdam avenue bike lanes in past board meetings.”

“The other truly appalling departure from past procedure is that there was no organized empirical investigation of the problem this detour purports to fix,” said Vaccaro. “Parks Department personnel could not say what the pedestrian or cyclist volumes were; what the numbers, times, or places of any collisions or other incidents were; what the grade of the hilly detour was or whether it met federal or other design standards for multi-use paths.”

“Compare this CB’s exacting scrutiny of DOT proposals for protected bike paths on Columbus and Amsterdam,” he said. “Years of delay because the board thought the DOT studies and analysis did not adequately address the potential traffic implications.”