Planned work on southern Brooklyn Greenway ignores crucial cycling gaps: activists

Brooklyn greenway
Bicyclist on the Brooklyn Greenway near the Verrazano Bridge.
File photo

City officials are planning to renovate an already-completed section of bike paths along the Brooklyn Greenway between Bay Ridge and Coney Island instead of addressing the 3.5-mile gap in protected cycling lanes just steps away from the proposed project’s scope, southern Brooklyn bicyclists claim. 

After years of advocacy from the borough’s bike enthusiasts, city officials pledged to complete a 26-mile cohesive bike route along Brooklyn’s waterfront in 2012, and they’ve been inching towards that goal ever since. 

The Parks Department, in partnership with the Department of Transportation, announced plans late last month to conduct a study outlining cost estimates to improve and connect fragmented segments on greenways in Brooklyn and Queens. In Kings County, officials are reviewing a nearly 7-mile section along Shore Parkway from Leif Erickson Park in Bay Ridge to Six Diamond Park in Coney Island.

The project, city Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said, will “enhance the pedestrian and cyclist experience” by creating a continuous path of scenic routes and connecting surrounding communities.

But southern Brooklyn bicycle activists blast the city’s “inadequate” plan, and are calling on city officials to instead focus on the 3.5-mile gap in the bike Greenway between Six Diamonds Park and Brigham Street in Sheepshead Bay. 

“In terms of the scope that they are starting out with, we definitely feel as though it is inadequate,” Brian Hedden, co-founder of Bike South Brooklyn, told Brooklyn Paper. 

While there are some issues with the stretch currently up for review, such as glare from oncoming traffic and lack of restrooms, many bicyclists would prefer to see the “Greenway Gap” closed first, Hedden said. 

“It is certainly worthwhile to look at improving the amenities and improving the environment on the part of the Greenway that exists already, particularly between the Verrazano Bridge and Bensonhurst Park,” Hedden said. “But they also need to consider filling in that gap as an important part of the scope of any sort of effort on the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway.” 

Parks is hosting a visioning meeting on the project on Tuesday, where Hedden hopes to see good attendance in an effort to help shift the city’s focus towards closing the gap. 

A slew of the borough’s elected officials applauded the project for bringing bike trails to neighborhoods that have historically had low access to waterfronts and one another and for highlighting the increased need for safe bicycle routes during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Parks and greenspaces have become so much more important amid the COVID-19 crisis, serving as destinations for New Yorkers seeking respites for their mental and physical health. Expanding these havens and creating public amenities for local residents must be a priority for our city,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in a statement. 

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes vowed to secure funding for the initiative and reshared his vision of creating a waterfront space along the southern Brooklyn shoreline modeled after Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“I will be securing funding to ensure that this important project for our community becomes a reality. As the visioning process begins, we can work together to plan a cohesive Narrows Waterfront Park that will have a tremendous impact on our southern Brooklyn communities,” Gounardes said. “Together, we can reimagine and invest in our open spaces and greenways to create a park for every one of us to enjoy.”

Most recently, construction began last month on a crucial stretch of the Brooklyn Greenway along Third Avenue in Sunset Park — connecting the neighborhood to the existing bike path in Red Hook.