BY OLIVIA KELLEY
Residents expressed frustration about the proposed character of an already contentious East 81st Street pedestrian bridge revamp long in the planning, saying there had been insufficient consultations with community members.
About 100 people attended a forum hosted by Community Board 8 on Sept. 14 to listen to city officials address ongoing complaints about the bridge, which connects 81st Street to the Esplanade. The bridge has been in the renovation process for the past 9-10 months and is likely to undergo several design changes. Work on the project has been stopped for weeks.
Although the co-chairman of CB8’s transportation committee, Chuck Warren, said residents were given the opportunity to express their concerns at monthly meetings, several said their concerns had nevertheless not been heard, much less addressed.
“I’m more confused than anyone else, because I’ve been to every meeting,” said Barbara Rudder, a member of the CB8’s Queensboro Bridge Area Committee.
Warren suggested that the three main concerns were the impact of lighting along the bridge, the placement of 20 glass windows into mesh fencing along the bridge facing Roosevelt Island, and the elimination of an ADA accessible ramp at 81st Street.
While some residents felt that the issues of lighting and the ramp had been addressed, others were adamant in their opposition to the glass windows, saying that they requested glass panels all along the bridge.
“The people have spoken and we want glass and not wire mesh,” the board’s Parks and Recreation Committee co-chair, Peggy Price, said, suggesting an earlier resolution had included all-glass in the bridge’s design.
Price demanded that city agencies responsible for the redesign be more responsive to residents’ apprehensions about the project.
“We should all rally behind having the best Esplanade we can have,” Price said, referring to residents’ desire for glass. “We deserve it and it’s been a mess for too long.”
A representative from the city’s Park and Recreation Department, Steve Simon, said there is an option of replacing mesh with glass panels once it’s determined how the windows fare in poor weather. Price was not satisfied.
“We don’t want to have some arbitrary future date that probably never happens,” she said, “we deserve this, this is our money and we should have the right to say what happens with our money.”
In addition to concerns about the wire mesh, several residents expressed issues with the ADA accessible ramp project, now planned for 82nd and 83rd Streets.
Simon said the Parks Department would review original plans for the 81st Street ramp, but it was also necessary to provide access points at 82nd and 83rd Street.
“We need to provide full accessibility at every street that is possible,” he said.
Residents of 81st Street were more pleased with the outcome.
“There’s been a lot of money spent and we feel that a lot of progress has been made,” said Charles Whitman, an area resident, “and we appreciate the agencies’ efforts with us.”