Commuters: Rush-hour drawbridge lifts must stop

Commuters: Rush-hour drawbridge lifts must stop
Photo by Jason Speakman

It’s a bridge over troubled rush hour.

Car commuters trying to travel to Queens via Greenpoint’s Pulaski drawbridge are demanding the Coast Guard stop boats from motoring up Newtown Creek during rush hour, when they say traffic is regularly brought to a standstill by the bridge being raised for a sole vessel to pass. The volume of auto traffic on the bridge ballooned in the 1990s and has remained greater than ever before in its history since 2000, meaning the blocked road is a headache for a boatload of drivers.

“It has always been an issue over the years. You get caught on the way to work or going home and mutter under your breath,” said Greenpoint resident Glenn Radecki, who started a petition last week to stop the bridge from going up during morning and evening rush hours. “But now there are many, many more people trying to get over the bridge.”

A 29-year low of 25,279 motorists crossed the bridge in 1993, and by 2000, that number was hovering around 37,000, where it remained in 2012, the last year for which city data is available.

The 60-year-old drawbridge’s aging hardware has made matters worse lately. The week before last, the bridge got stuck in the up position and remained there for an hour and a half while city workers scrambled to fix it, according to commuters and a community board member.

Tall boats cause the bridge to open an average of twice a day, according to the Coast Guard. Many of them are barges carrying industrial materials and waste from businesses along Newtown Creek.

Residents and Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Greenpoint) say something has to be done, but the Coast Guard says the boats’ schedule is up to Mother Nature.

“The trips need to be made during high tides, so if high tide is during the morning or evening rush hour, unfortunately that is when ships need the bridge to be open,” said Coast Guard spokesman Russ Tippets.

Lentol said he plans to reach out to the Coast Guard to try to work out a compromise.

One Geenpointer stressed that there is more than just boat and car traffic at stake.

“It is a critical crossing, especially because of the bike and pedestrian elements,” said Teresa Toro, referring to the bridge’s bike-and-pedestrian path that is set for an upgrade. “It cannot be underestimated that there is an impact here and a broader regional impact because you are talking about deliveries and travel between Brooklyn and Queens. This is not a little Greenpoint problem.”The Department of Transportation refused to answer questions related to the bridge-raising.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurf‌aro@c‌ngloc‌al.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitt‌er.com/‌Danie‌lleFu‌rfaro.