The community’s fight against the new City Island Bridge’s design has spilled over into the courts, with construction plans grinding to a halted pending further litigation.
A judge in Bronx state Supreme Court granted a temporary restraining order, effectively stopping any construction on a new, pending a hearing on a whether or not the city was required to classify the project as in need of a Uniform Land Use Review Process.
Senator Jeff Klein is supporting the legal action, and islanders gathered with him Friday, Nov. 8 at the foot of the bridge to announce that the lawsuit had been filed.
Before the press conference was over, the islanders received word that the TRO was granted.
Islanders have panned the modernistic steel-cable design, and the height of the proposed bridge, towering about ten times as high as the current bridge.
“Putting a cable-stayed bridge over Eastchester Bay is like telling the Starship Enterprise it can land at LaGuardia – it just does not fit,” said Klein. “We should not have to sacrifice the majesty of City Island in exchange for a 21st Century bridge.”
Klein argued that the community should have been consulted throughout the process.
“With the [city] Department of Transportation moving ahead with a design that does not address the community’s biggest concerns, I think it is important that we file this lawsuit to make sure that the City Island community’s voices are heard.”
The City Island Civic Association and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit Barbara Dolensek contend that since changes to the city map may be made, and the building of the new and a temporary bridge require land swaps, a ULURP is required by law.
The suit also charges that the DOT is trying to negate the ULURP process by avoiding holding hearings until after construction begins.
“For over 10 years the Civic Association has asked the Department of Transportation to honor our concerns about the new bridge,” said Dolensek, “but they continue to force a bridge on us that City Island residents don’t want.”
A city Law Department spokesman expressed disappointment with the issuance of the temporary restraining order, but expressed confidence the city view would ultimately prevail.
A DOT spokesman said that the island community had been consulted as to the design – something many islanders deny – and that their concerns were taken into consideration. The spokesman noted that the size of the tower was reduced at the request of the community, adding that the current bridge is far beyond its life span and deteriorating.
“DOT has worked tirelessly to maintain the existing structure while also working closely with the community on a replacement plan,” said the spokesman. “Outreach with local elected officials, civic associations and community members has included a dozen public meetings and presentations and countless conversations.”
In the court documents, islanders also raised concern that the cost of the project has grown from an initial $21 million to $102 million.
Ben Randazzo, chief-of-staff of Assemblyman Michael Benedetto attended the announcement meeting.