Borough President Diaz has thrown a roadblock in an unwanted City Island Bridge design.
The move comes as new Department of Transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg said she is reevaluating whether the bridge, opposed by locals, can be reduced to a simple causeway on to the island.
Trottenberg met with island residents, business owners and elected officials on City Island on Wednesday, April 16 to discuss the bridge plans and see if design changes can be made.
Diaz is opposing the project using his vote on a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) regarding easements and land use for the new and temporary bridge as a proxy to criticize the previous mayoral administration for not listening to islanders’ concerns.
Most islanders dislike a decade-old design calling for a signature, modern cable-stayed bridge with a tower soaring about 160-feet into the air.
“The entire process surrounding the planning and construction of this bridge has been flawed from the very start,” said Diaz. “The previous administration simply ignored the valid criticisms of the residents of City Island regarding this project, and I cannot support its construction at this time.”
Previous Administration’s Error
“Without question, I believe this entire matter could have been better addressed by the previous administration,” stated Diaz in his negative ULURP recommendation. “The ushering in of a new administration, however, provides an opportunity to address the current bridge design. I am committed in pursuing an alternative vision for the City Island Bridge, which has for so long been sought by the City Island community.”
“Plain Vanilla Causeway”
Trottenberg said at the April 16 meeting that she would work to change the design of the bridge, but could not offer islanders a specific plan at that point because of complications related to state and federal agencies that need to be consulted, and the fact that the bridge construction had already been contracted after a bidding process.
“What we would like to do is come up with a causeway design that will be not quite what you have, but a lot closer,” she said at the meeting. “It will be nothing like a cable-stayed bridge.”
At several points, she referred to the alternative bridge design as a “plain vanilla causeway.”
However, environmental regulations have to be taken into consideration for a causeway design, she said, because it would require putting pilings in the water. The cable-stayed design avoids pilings. She said that city engineers are going to look into using the pilings of the existing bridge.
Islanders were happy a DOT commissioner actually came to the island to hear their concerns over the issue, which has been simmering, and left the meeting holding out a ray of hope.
“My impression is she’s been working very hard to make this happen for us,” Barbara Dolensek, City Island Civic Association second vice-president.
Previous pleas to the Bloomberg administration officials in the DOT fell on deaf ears, she said. But action needs to be taken by the end of May, said Trottenberg, because after a May 6 meeting, the City Planning Commission will vote. Once CPC votes, she said, further complications will arise.