The state hastily closed a crumbling footbridge that delivers Red Hook students over busy Hamilton Avenue and the Gowanus Expressway safely to class at PS 146, but won’t be able to complete repairs until nearly a month after school starts next September.
The 47-year-old pedestrian bridge, which connects Hicks and Henry streets and is the safest way for walkers to get from the neighborhood famously disconnected from the rest of the borough by six-lane expressway and its service road, was closed with little warning on July 5 for a three-month, $1-million upgrade to its concrete deck and steel structure.
That means Red Hook students who use the bridge to get to school will have to find another safe way to get there once school starts — and that concerns the school’s principal.
“Can they be encouraged to find safe ways to walk to school?” said principal Anna Allanbrook.
The next closest place to cross the expressway is at the intersection of Clinton Street and Hamilton Avenue, three blocks south.
During the school year that intersection has two crossing guards, according Allanbrook, but she said that won’t be enough to handle the influx of re-routed Red Hook students come September.
The commuting headache will extend to non-students as well, as Red Hook residents who use the bridge as a bridge to subway station on the other side of the highway will now have to find another way to go.
Residents were pleased to learn of the work, citing years of neglect that left the footbridge covered in graffiti and trash, but angry they were not given warning it would close with such short notice.
“This is a big shock,” said Dorothy Shields, president of the tenants association at Red Hook East, part of the massive public housing development two blocks from the bridge. “I wasn’t told about the closing [beforehand].”
Danielle Fee, who lives on Nelson Street and is more than nine months pregnant, said so far the extra-long walk to the subway at Carroll Street has been taxing.
“They didn’t give us any notice,” said Fee.
The closure even surprised Community Board Six District Manager Craig Hammerman, who said he was told of the work less than four days before it began.
“The state should have consulted the community,” Hammerman said. “It sets a bad precedent.”
State spokesperson Adam Levine said the project was planned in the spring, but fast-tracked after a recent inspection revealed the concrete deck was in need of immediate repair — something it would like to get finished before classes begin at PS 146 starts in September.
“We wanted to get the work done as quickly as possible,” said Levine. “That’s what led us to [green-light the project].”
The bridge is scheduled to reopen Oct. 1.
The bridge was opened in 1964 to provide access between two neighborhoods torn apart by Robert Moses’ construction of the expressway ten years earlier. It was repainted in 1983 and again in 2003, and received minor repairs on its bridge joints in 2006.