City Islanders continue fight against city’s plans for new bridge

City Island residents don’t want to cross that bridge when they come to it.

To end the city-led project to replace the City Island Bridge with a 150-foot steel cable structure, island residents are starting up a letter-writing campaign to let Mayor Michael Bloomberg know they want the project scrapped.

According to Barbara Dolensek, of the City Island Civic Association, more than 100 residents signed a petition passed around at the City Island Reunion on Saturday, August 21. The petition asked the city Department of Transportation to scale down the bridge replacement project that is expected to begin in about six months.

“We already have about 600 signatures from earlier petitions,” Dolensek said. “Together that’s a fairly sizable crowd. It’s about one-fourth of the residents, not including the children.”

The main concern for residents is the proposed size of the bridge.

While the current bridge, which was built about 110 years ago, stands less than 20 feet high, the city has proposed installing a 150-foot high steel-cable bridge.

“It’s going to be a huge monstrosity that is just inappropriate for City Island,” Dolensek said. “We’re a low rise, nautical community and we don’t need to draw any more attention to ourselves than we have to. It just doesn’t make sense to have a 150-foot bridge when any new construction on the island can’t be more than 35 feet high.”

The city announced plans to replace the aging bridge in 2003. Originally the project was expected to cost about $32 million and completion was set for 2006.

However, after costs began ballooning past $120 million, the city delayed the project because of budget concerns. The start date is now September 2011, with a temporary structure coming in March.

According to officials with DOT, the project is in the final design phase. On Monday, August 23, DOT officials did not comment about whether it is too late to change the design plans.

Along with worries about what the two-year construction period of the new bridge will mean for traffic, Dolensek and others are also concerned about the safety of having the steel cables suspended so high up.

“They will sway in the breeze,” she said. “The DOT hasn’t listened to our concerns, but they don’t have to live with it. They just maintain it.”

According to Dolensek, the civic association’s bridge committee has spoken with architects about developing a more modest, cause-way or arch-bridge design.

Whether or not the design for the 150-foot bridge, and the plans to install it are set in stone remains unanswered, so Dolensek is hopeful the city might change its mind.

“I don’t think the mayor entirely understands these issues,” she said. “But hopefully we can make him aware.”

Reach reporter Max Mitchell at (718) 742-3394 or mmitchell@cngocal.com

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