Float on: Pontoon bridge would pick up closed L train’s slack, model-turned-executive says

Float on: Pontoon bridge would pick up closed L train’s slack, model-turned-executive says
Parker Shinn

This idea is full of hot air!

A new temporary pontoon bridge is the best way to shuttle the most straphangers across the East River when officials close the L train’s underwater Brooklyn–Manhattan tunnel for a 15-month repair next April, according to the out-of-state real-estate executive and former underwear model who floated the concept.

San Francisco resident Parker Shinn, who once lived on the distant isle of Manhattan, claimed that plans to launch new ferries as well as beef up bus service across and create dedicated high-occupancy vehicle lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge will not be enough to transport the more than 200,000 displaced daily L-train commuters, necessitating his so-called “L-Ternative” crossing.

“I question whether they’re going to be able to accommodate an additional 225,000 people each day,” Shinn said. “I think this bridge could take all the people that take the L.”

The 31-year-old recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise an initial $50,000 to get his project off the ground, and said he’s already fine-tuned the concept with some professionals.

“We’re exploring it,” he said. “I’ve spoken to a couple of companies to get estimates. I’ve bounced it off naval engineers and architects.”

Shinn proposed installing the Brooklyn end of the short-term bridge — which would be supported by 30 floating 90-foot barges anchored in the river, according to its Kickstarter page — near the coastline around N. Eighth St. in Williamsburg. Straphangers who cross it would arrive in Manhattan near 10th Street.

The span would have four lanes, half Kings County–bound and the other half going towards the distant isle. Pedestrians and cyclists would be permitted on the outer lanes, while the inner two would be reserved for buses in order to keep the bridge from flipping into the East River, Shinn said.

“You have to keep the weight centered,” he said.

A portion of the crossing would be built higher to allow ferries’ and other small boats’ passage, and the span would feature a drawbridge to allow larger vessels through, according to Shinn, who said he has yet to share his plan with the Coast Guard, which would need to approve it, the city, or the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“The first step was try to get this in the public eye,” he said.

The Kickstarter page for Shinn’s bridge notes that some European companies built a similar structure in Africa for $38 million 10 years ago. He said his project on the East River, however, could come with a price tag of at least $100 million, according to a report.

But the cost for the temporary span — which will be disassembled when L-train service resumes — would be covered by a $1 toll, he said, in addition to public financing for its initial stages.

Shinn — who said this journalist was “getting into the weeds” when he asked what other projects the real-estate executive has designed — said he first considered the possibility of a pontoon bridge eight months ago, but started concentrating on it in earnest more recently with the approaching “L-pocolypse.”

“I’ve always loved designing and building things, and New York City is my favorite city in the world,” said Shinn, who once modeled for companies including underwear-maker Me Undies and formalwear retailer Suit Supply. “I was thinking about all the people and businesses that would be affected by the shutdown. I think this bridge absolutely is going to be feasible. My hope is that it would help a lot of people.”

And Shinn isn’t the only person to float unconventional alternative-transportation solutions for straphangers who will soon be booted from the L train. Last year, some transit-minded locals renewed their push to create an aerial gondola connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan called the East River Skyway after the proposal received support from pols including Williamsburg’s Councilman Stephen Levin and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill