It’s a bridge that City Island doesn’t want.
And locals made their feelings clear at a Town Hall meeting where the city Department of Transportation presented its plans for a new City Island Bridge.
A number of residents pushed back on the city plan at a packed Community Board 10 Town Hall meeting Monday, Sept. 23, with many saying the proposed bridge, a sleek, soaring modernistic affair, was out of character for the quaint sea-side community.
Construction on a temporary bridge, being built so the existing bridge can be demolished, is set to begin on Sept. 30.
The overwhelming consensus of community members present was that was that the DOT and city Department of Design and Construction should go back to the drawing board.
“To build a new bridge that is ten times as high as the existing bridge is not appropriate for City Island,” said City Island Civic Association vice-president Barbara Dolensek.
The group maintains the bridge is too tall and modern looking with its steel “cable-stayed” design.
She added that the community was “just handed a bridge” that they do not want and charged that the city was trying to circumvent the Uniform Land Use Review Process and the hearings normally required when map changes are made.
Gerard “Skip” Giacco, City Island Chamber of Commerce president, said that the current bridge is one of the things that attracts residents and visitors who are seeking an break from the high-rise environment all around the city. The new design could set the community up to lose its small-town appeal.
“If we set precedence that allows a 140-foot structure at the entrance to the island, it becomes very hard to argue against a developer who wants to put up a giant apartment building,” he said.
The current bridge, he added, is a “welcome to the our neighborhood bridge,” while the proposed bridge is a “welcome to Las Vegas bridge.”
Community activist John Doyle said that the ballooning cost of the bridge should cause people to pause and consider what all that money could be used for, such as more cops or more after-school programming.
“There is something perverse about spending over $100 million on a ‘signature’ bridge that the overwhelming number of residents oppose,” he said. “The bridge is yet another illustration of tone deafness that has come from City Hall in recent years.”
Plans for the new bridge have been in the works since 1998, but community members speaking at the meeting said they were barely consulted.
One of the top DOT bridge officials, Robert Collier, said the existing bridge ranked a 3.3 out of seven during a recent bi-annual bridge inspection – a weak rating – and needs to be replaced.
He said as part of the project, Catherine Scott Promenade next to the bridge will be improved, the Legion triangle at Bridge Street and City Island Avenue will enlarged, and that the bridge will be wider and not have any pilings in the water.