The bridge that crosses Newtown Creek and connects Greenpoint with Long Island City has been the subject of heavy discussion at recent meetings of Brooklyn's Community Board 1 and Queens' Community Board 2, namely concerning the lack of a separate bicycle lane on the bridge and the dangerous conditions that are created by forcing cyclists and walkers to share the existing walkway.
The 55-year-old, six-lane drawbridge has been getting a lot more use over the last ten years, as neighborhoods like Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and Long Island City are seeing enormous population booms. The fact that Long Island City is something of a transportation hub, with six subways and a Long Island Railroad station, means more Brooklyn residents are making their way to the neighborhood as part of their daily commute into Manhattan.
Whether by car, bus, bicycle, or the soles of their feet, North Brooklyn residents have been commuting to Long Island City via the Pulaski Bridge, and the influx of commuters has inspired the Queens Department of Transportation to redesign the LIC entrance to the bridge, making it more pedestrian and cyclist friendly with the addition of safer crosswalks and modifications to the traffic patterns.
A public hearing on the proposed changes to the Queens entrance to the bridge brought a number of Brooklynites to a recent Queens meeting asking CB2 to request further improvements to the bridge’s walkway, specifically asking for a separate bicycle lane. The board said that they would continue to work towards that end, but did not want to delay the upcoming construction at the intersection by modifying the plans.
"We don't want to stop this proposal from being constructed over the next two months," said CB2 Chairman Joe Conley at a March board meeting. "We are asking for growth into bicycle lanes in the future. We want there to be a long-term outlook for the bridge."
The subject of improvements to the bike lane was brought up again at a meeting of Brooklyn's CB1. During a report from the Transportation Committee, committee chair Teresa Toro urged the board to request a large-scale traffic study of the Pulaski Bridge to coincide with the DOT's work on the Queens side of the bridge.
"The use of the bridge has changed over the last few years," said Toro. "The walkway is too crowded, and the roads on the bridge are not used as fully as other bridges over the Newtown Creek."
She asked the board to request a pedestrian study of the bridge, and suggested that a possible solution would be converting one of its six traffic lanes into a bike lane.
She explained that the timing of the request couldn't be better, considering the work that was being done on the Queens side of the bridge, and said that by asking for a larger study of the bridge, it could inspire the DOT to "to look at the bridge more holistically instead of seeing it as a Queens side and Brooklyn side."
The board ultimately decided not to request that the DOT conduct a study of the bridge, reasoning that more information was needed before making a decision on such an important issue. Though the issue was defeated, based on the interest other board members took in the issue and the broad support for improvements to the bridge, it is likely to come up again at future meetings.
During the public comment section of the meeting, Moses Gates, from St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corporation, further urged support for the conversion of a traffic lane into a bike path.
"This is a plan with no drawbacks," he said, adding that he had reached out to CB2, the LIC Industrial Business Zone, and local businesses on both sides of the bridge and would return to the board with more information on existing conditions.