Greenway Master Plan Bill Now Has a Later Deadline For Creation of Said Master Plan

Council Member Carlina Rivera (podium) rallies supporters of the Greenways Master Plan bill before a hearing on the bill in June. Photo: Dave Colon
Council Member Carlina Rivera (podium) rallies supporters of the Greenways Master Plan bill before a hearing on the bill in June. Photo: Dave Colon

Wait ’til next year. And then the year after that.

A bill that requires a multi-agency effort to create a greenway master plan for New York City unanimously passed the City Council Transportation Committee on Thursday, but there’s a catch: the actual master plan won’t be revealed until the end of 2024.

The original bill language in the proposal sponsored by Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-Lower East Side) required the departments of Transportation, Parks, Planning, Design and Construction and Environmental Protection to come up with a greenway master plan by July 1, 2023. But between a hearing at the end of June and a committee vote last Thursday, a key change was made: the deadline for the greenway master plan was pushed back to Dec. 1, 2024 (though there’s also a requirement that by March 30, 2023 the departments create “an internal working group” focused on creating the greenway master plan, so there’s that).

The rejiggered timeline came after negotiations between the Council and the Adams administration, which won $7.25-million RAISE grant from the federal government in August to help it follow through on its own Filling the Gaps greenway plan that called for work on five corridors and determining future corridors to finish a comprehensive greenway across the city.

DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez testified earlier in the year in favor of a delay because the administration wanted to align the requirements of final bill with the timing of the work funded by RAISE grant, which an agency spokesperson said would fund a large expansion of the city’s greenway network.

“We are excited to leverage first of its kind Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to plan for a major expansion of our greenway network,” said DOT spokeswoman Mona Bruno. “These plans enable us to prioritize active transportation projects that will reconnect historically disenfranchised communities.”

The Adams administration has some greenway work to do even in the absence of a master plan. The Parks Department and DOT still have to make good on the almost $50-million commitment to expanding waterfront access in south Brooklyn and park greenways in eastern Queens. Additionally, the administration says its working on plans for a greenway connection over the Cropsey Avenue Bridge in Coney Island and on the Richmond Terrace on the North Shore of Staten Island.

But in the absence of a master plan that plans and maintains greenways, the upkeep of the city’s greenway system means that the same old problems that haunt the paths could be a problem for years to come. The Parks Department’s stewardship of the existing greenways has been bumpy, literally and figuratively. On Ocean Parkway, the agency has struggled to keep up with maintenance on a broken and cracked stretch of the greenway between Avenues R and X, and those lagging repair efforts have taken long enough that stretches of the greenway north of Avenue M are also becoming unridable.

There aren't enough greenways — and they aren't well maintained.
There aren’t enough greenways — and they aren’t well maintained.

Attorney Steve Vaccaro also recently took the Parks Department to task for letting the section of the Hudson River Greenway that the agency manages north of 59th Street become what he said was a poorly managed path that puts users at risk of serious injury.

The “critical backbone of the greenway network continues to be poorly managed in a way that predictably causes serious injuries costing the city millions each year!” he tweeted.

Still, advocates also welcomed the forward momentum on the bill, which if passed by the entire Council, will still be a chance to finish and update the city’s first greenway plan that was developed in 1993 by the Dinkins administration.

“There’s one more hurdle to clear, but we’re optimistically looking forward to the vote by the full Council this month,” said Roland Lewis the interim executive director of Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. “The changes look like minor technical changes requested by a supportive administration that intends to follow through on a workable and complete greenway plan.”