Expanding Access to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, located at the mouth of upper New York Bay, connects Brooklyn and Staten Island and serves as a major link in the interstate highway system, providing the shortest route between the middle Atlantic states and Long Island. The earliest plan for a crossing at the narrows came in the form of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s 1888 proposal to build a tunnel extending the Staten Island North Shore line into Brooklyn. Financial constraints and delays in the approval process prevented this project.
It wasn’t until 1946, when the New York City Tunnel Authority was absorbed into the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority—then chaired by a legendary and controversial master builder Robert Moses—that the narrows crossing proposal was reappraised. Moses’ plan, which called for a bridge instead of an underwater crossing, was quickly approved by state legislature, and the bridge opened in 1964 as the world’s longest suspension span. The original plans called for a bike-pedestrian path on either side of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (similar to what exists on the George Washington Bridge), but this component was scrapped by Moses, an ardent advocate for auto-centric cities, in favor of maximizing space for motorized transit.
The bridge remains accessible only to cars and buses—a situation that several New Yorkers spoke out about this By the City/For the City. One resident wants to see a more efficient use of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, allowing for walking, biking, and transit. Cat in Bushwick asked for one of the 6 lanes on the double-decker Verrazano Bridge to be converted into a pedestrian walkway/ bike lane. Lee in Castleton Corners thinks that the MTA should run a new subway line from Brooklyn over the Verrazano Bridge into Staten Island.
In 1994, civic and environmental groups launched efforts to construct walkways for pedestrians and bicycles on the bridge. The proposal received support from the Neighborhood Open Space Coalition, a Brooklyn-based environmental advocacy group, and Transportation Alternatives, a bicycle advocacy group. In 1997, the Transportation Division of the NYC Department of City Planning drafted a feasibility plan for pedestrian/cyclist access. Adding walking, cycling, and even mass transit uses to this bridge could greatly increase accessibility and connectivity for residents of Staten Island, Brooklyn, and all of New York, while ensuring a less carbon-intensive future for the city.
Think you’re up to the challenge of improving access to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge? Click here to register for the By the City / For the City design competition today! Entries are due by midnight (EST) on Sunday, July 31st, 2011. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!