Advocates Fuming Over Plan to Shut Hudson River Greenway Segment in Riverside Park

Survey respondents said they'd like an alternative on Riverside Drive to the Hudson River Greenway bike path for cyclists and pedestrians (pictured). Photo: Ken Coughlin
Survey respondents said they'd like an alternative on Riverside Drive to the Hudson River Greenway bike path for cyclists and pedestrians (pictured). Photo: Ken Coughlin

Bike- and street-safety advocates are railing against a surreptitious city plan to close a popular section of the Hudson River Greenway in Riverside Park this spring in order to make repairs caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Riverside Park Administrator John Herrold dumped the unwelcome news during a private meeting between Parks Department staff and transportation advocacy groups last month, when he announced that the Parks Department would close what’s known as the Cherry Walk from about 110th Street to 125th Street for at least two months in order to wrap up the federally funded work — but the closures came as a total shock to advocates, who blasted officials for quietly planning to close a crucial pathway without any plans for a detour.

“Major links in the network cannot simply be suspended because of an event or a construction project without thought given to alternate routes and detours. That obviously requires substantial advance notice and coordination with the cycling communities and other agencies,” Bike New York’s Jon Orcutt wrote on Jan. 23 to Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver.

Orcutt demanded parks honchos release more information about the closure, including its exact dates and location so that the nearly 3,000 cyclists who ride through Riverside Park each day can plan ahead.

Even the Department of Transportation was apparently kept out of the loop, according to the head of another advocacy group who was at the Jan. 16 meeting.

“This lack of coordination or communication with the community boards and advocacy organizations is upsetting — but, the lack of coordination or communication with another city agency, the Department of Transportation, borders on negligence,” said Lisa Orman of Streetopia UWS.

Orman, who on Monday sent her own letter to the Parks Department, said the imminent months-long closure is the latest example of Herrold and Riverside Park throwing up obstacles to cyclists, who have already had to deal with dangerous detours elsewhere in the green space, in addition to a lack of lighting and informational signage.

“This particular case is, sadly, part of a pattern where Parks’ actions and attitudes towards bicyclists appear ambivalent, at best, and, more frequently, downright hostile. From the thoughtless and shoddy condition of the Riverside Park detour to the lack of care for the safety of bicyclists at the Rotunda to the hostile way that Parks discourages bicycling across legal paths in Central Park, all of this leaves bicyclists feeling like they are an unwelcome nuisance in our parks,” Orman wrote.

A city government source, who requested anonymity because the source has to work across multiple agencies, said the Parks Department should not be in the business of overseeing a major form of transportation.

“The Parks Department consistently ignores their own paths,” the source said, citing Streetsblog’s coverage of the disastrously maintained Leif Ericson bike path, the agency’s failure to provide safe crossings for cyclists through Central Park, the ban on cyclists on part of the Hudson River Greenway that led to an ill-constructed detour, condoning NYPD ticketing on the greenway late at night, the long long long delays to fix the Ocean Parkway bike path and the terrible conditions of the Shore Parkway bike path in Bensonhurst.

Former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told Streetsblog on Monday that the pathway is in dangerous conditions — and he doesn’t think there’s an alternative to just shutting it down entirely and doing the work in one fell swoop so bikers can soon use it again.

But that doesn’t explain why cyclists on one of the busiest bike paths in town aren’t given a safe detour — and the Parks Department wasn’t biting, saying that the work is “necessary.” The agency also claims that its plan for the work has not been finalized.

“To say we haven’t provided a detour, when in fact we are still planning, is inaccurate,” Parks spokeswoman Crystal Howard told Streetsblog. “We are putting forth a good faith effort to work together to address concerns.”

Orman did not see it that way.

“Parks officials told us on Tuesday morning that they are working on a plan to provide a detour,” said the Streetopia UWS head. “We would like this decisive action to become part of their everyday operating protocol — that when a major construction project will affect a huge swath of park users, they immediately communicate with the DOT, ped/bike advocates, and the local community boards. Our safety and convenience shouldn’t be an afterthought.”

This story was updated to clarify the Parks Department’s position and to allow Lisa Orman to respond to it.

Streetopia UWS Letter to Parks Commissioner Silver Feb 2020 by Gersh Kuntzman on Scribd