ULURP needed on the $149.5 million new City Island Bridge

The current City Island Bridge will be replaced by a structure which will be a lot larger.

The controversial new City Island Bridge to carry thousands of tourists to the island may wind up stalled thanks to a piece of paper.

An obscure document found at a city agency has forced the proposed $149.5 million steel cable span project to go through a lengthy public approval process.

Up til now, it’s been rammed down the throats of staid City Islanders, who’ve called the proposed 165-foot tall modernistic span totally out of character for the island, often described as looking like a quaint New England fishing village.

The final budget for the bridge was approved this spring, before a March 2007 city Department of Transportation document was found stating the project will need to undergo a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure because it would require changes to the city map.

The paragraph in the planning document shows the wider roadway on the current design would require ULURP through the Department of City Planning.

It was discovered by Borough President Ruben Diaz’s office.

“The people of City Island have the right to voice their concerns or support for the construction of a new City Island Bridge through the ULURP process,” said Diaz. “This is a requirement of this project, and the DOT admits just that in its own document, which my office confirmed last week.”

Diaz has joined together with city Comptroller John Liu and Councilman Jimmy Vacca in calling on the city to begin the ULURP process as soon as possible, before construction on the bridge begins in spring 2013, so that public hearings required by ULURP at Community Board 10 and the borough president’s office can be held.

Vacca said he always thought the design for the bridge was “too grandiose.”

If the bridge was redesigned, it could both fit in better with the character of the nautical community and also reduce the $149.5 million price tag.

“If the Department of Transportation’s own documents show the need for a ULURP action in order to replace the City Island Bridge, that process must begin before construction starts on the bridge, not after,” said Vacca.

“DOT should not treat the ULURP process as a foregone conclusion, when City Islanders and myself have expressed real concerns with the design and cost of this bridge.”

Vacca said that the ULURP would not necessarily guarantee the design would be further altered.

It has already been reduced in designs that were about 450 feet tall to about 250 feet tall when first presented in 2002.

But the design has remained basically the same, creating a short and squat looking plan that has the new bridge like football goalposts or a Honda logo, said City Island Civic Association second vice-president Barbara Dolensek.

Much of the City Island community also resents the city DOT saying they had to put an additional lane on the temporary bridge at the behest of the community, when that lane will be need anyway, said Dolensek.

One involved Bronx official charged DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan “has rammed this project through like so many other of her projects. City Island never wanted this big a bridge.”

DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said the agency will be cooperative through ULURP, with the priority on replacing the existing bridge – built in 1901 and condemned in 1998.

“The existing City Island Bridge is far past its intended life span and may soon be unable to serve the City Island residents and visitors who depend on it,” said Solomonow.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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