NYC Parks recently presented an update for Destination: Greenways for residents in Bay Ridge.
This is a program that’s been in the works for years, and it’s now entering a design-and-construction process that will result in actual shovels in the ground. There’s a lot going on, and a lot you may not have heard about before. Here are some FAQs to get you caught up, and help shape your feedback to NYC Parks!
What is Destination: Greenways?
Destination: Greenways has been a NYC Parks program in the works since at least 2019, with a community visioning session in November 2020 and an update with conceptual sketches in February 2022.
The city government is seeking to improve walking and biking between local park destinations in two separate corridors — one in Southwest Brooklyn, and the other in Eastern Queens — where greenways partly exist, but so do problems with connections and continuous travel.
In Brooklyn, the aim is to improve the conditions of the Leif Ericson and Brooklyn Waterfront Greenways, establish better connections between the two, and consider a short extension across Coney Island Creek.
Is all of this happening now?
No, the overall effort consists of 10 smaller sub-projects in Brooklyn. Design and construction will be funded in stages.
The city’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget (passed in June 2022) funded three of the proposed projects on the western end — the Leif Ericson Greenway, plus the promenade around the Bay Ridge waterfront, to underneath the Verrazzano Bridge.
How long will this take?
Starting from now, the three current projects are expected to be completed approximately three to four years from now.
What are the next steps? Should I do anything now?
The design process is starting now, and will take approximately one year. The designers will make substantial use of community feedback received in the visioning session held in November 2020 and the update meetings held in October and November 2023. You still have an opportunity to make suggestions by emailing BKspecialevents@parks.nyc.gov.
What has been proposed so far?
NYC Parks is expected to:
- Improve the surface of the Leif Ericson Greenway
- Formally incorporate the path between Second and Third Avenues into the Leif Ericson Greenway, as a means of connecting it to the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway
- In conjunction with NYC DOT, they are also expected to improve safety where the greenway crosses city streets — but nothing specific has been proposed so far
- A rendering (see below) from a February 2022 presentation of a terraced area and ADA-compliant ramp from the southern end of Fourth Avenue near the Verrazzano Bridge was not included in the November 2023 update
- A February 2022 proposal for vertical glare shields blocking lights from nighttime traffic on the Belt Parkway was not included in the November 2023 update, but NYC Parks staff said it was a possibility
What about access to the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway at other points?
Unfortunately, the pedestrian bridges at 80th and 92nd Streets — neither of which are ADA-compliant — are out of scope for this project. Separately, NYC DOT is the lead agency on the replacement of pedestrian crossings at 17th and 27th Avenues — the new structures will be ADA-compliant. We have not been informed if they are also planning replacements at 80th and 92nd Streets.
What about bathrooms? And water fountains?
Along this corridor, there are no bathrooms between Leif Ericson Park at Fifth Avenue and the Matchpoint tennis center at Bay Parkway (approx. five miles). The Parks Department has mentioned that the land between the Belt Parkway and the shoreline lacks water utilities – thus making a comfort station unfeasible, and suggested that cyclists can travel to one of those two locations. This suggestion does not offer relief for people using the Greenway on foot.
BGI believes this is a challenge worth overcoming, and notes that the water utility issue was addressed by the NYS Parks Department at Shirley Chisholm State Park (SCSP), opened in 2019 on a former landfill, with the use of portable toilets. There are also water fountains at SCSP that are operable all year round — not just in the summer, like many water fountains operated by NYC Parks.
We recommend that supporters stress this as a priority in feedback sent to NYC Parks.
What about the gap in the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway from 58th Street to Red Hook? What about the gap from Coney Island to Sheepshead Bay?
With the exception of the proposed extension across Coney Island Creek, the primary focus of the Destination: Greenways program is upgrading the conditions of existing greenways in Southwest Brooklyn.
Advancing the development of the remainder of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway consists of individual projects like these with several different lead agencies along its entire 29-mile route.
In particular, there are five such projects in various stages of study, design, or construction in Sunset Park and Red Hook. Past the proposed Coney Island Creek extension outlined in Destination: Greenways, the most recent proposal for bridging the gap in southern Brooklyn is a 2004 study by the NYC Department of City Planning. That study served as the basis for greenway connectors along the Belt Parkway service road (opened in 2019) and along Emmons Avenue (opened in 2022).
No one should be fully satisfied with the pace of progress — the sum total of new additions to the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway in 2023 will be 700 feet, all on 39th Street — but it should be noted that 10 new miles of the greenway have been completed in the past 10 years this way, and this is how the remaining eight miles will be completed in the years to come.