$149.5 pricetag on controversial City Island replacement bridge

The City Island Bridge will be replaced.

City Island is getting a new steel cable bridge – whether the community wants it or not.

The City’s Office of Management and Budget has informed Community Board 10 that it has approved a $149.5 million budget for a replacement bridge to be built where the existing City Island Bridge now sits over Eastchester Bay.

A temporary bridge will be constructed next to the current bridge, where it will run from Pelham Bay Park through the Catherine Scott Promenade to City Island Avenue.

Federal funding on the project will cover $100 million, with the City funding $17,477,000 and New York State picking up the tab on $12,523,000 plus a 15% contingency of $19,500,000, according to a letter received by Board 10.

The City Island Civic Association has long objected to the design of the bridge, which calls for the construction of a 150-foot tower structure that many feel is too big for the mostly low-rise nautical community and popular tourist destination, often described as looking like a quaint New England fishing village.

“The design is totally out-of-touch,” argued Bill Stanton, president of the City Island Civic Association, upon hearing news of the budget approval. “We don’t need this monstrosity, and this design is not in keeping with the tenor and the tone of City Island.”

The project’s federal funding is a cause for concern, because it does not seem like the local community has much say in what the new bridge looks like.

“We understand that the current bridge needs replacing,” Stanton said. “But they never came to us and asked what we thought. The powers that be are just imposing it on us.”

Stanton suggested perhaps building a “retro” bridge, one that looks similar to the existing bridge, which is about 110 years old and no longer functions as a working drawbridge.

Another idea would be a causeway that’s likely cheaper to construct, said CICA first vice-president Fred Ramftl.

“The cost is absolutely unacceptable, and is a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Ramftl said. “They could have built a causeway for much less money and in much less time.”

While the current bridge stands about 20 feet high, the city plans call for installing a 150-foot high steel-cable bridge. The new bridge was first proposed in 2003.

A city Department of Transportation spokeswoman said that since 2002 the DOT met several times with community leaders and local organizations to discuss plans and get feedback for the City Island Bridge’s proposed design.

They conducted presentations on the preliminary design in March 2005, as well as public presentations to the CICA and Community Board 10 in 2007 and 2009, she said.

“All together, these discussions resulted in a project that reflects the input of the community, and features significantly shorter towers that require a larger tower footprint and a larger foundation to accommodate them,” the DOT spokeswoman said. “The plan also includes the expansion of a temporary bridge from two to three lanes, the rehabilitation of the seawall and the restoration of the esplanade, Legion Triangle and Pasvankias Monument.”

Construction, she said, is expected to begin in 2013.

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