Yesterday the family and I went to Riverdale RiverFest, an annual family-friendly festival to celebrate and advocate for Riverdale’s waterfront, and especially the extension of the Hudson River Greenway into Riverdale and Yonkers. The highlight for my daughter was the bouncy castle and the face painting. But the highlight for me was the unveiling of NYMTC’s Hudson River Valley Greenway Link Study, a plan to extend the Hudson River Greenway into Riverdale.
I’d like to start off by thanking the volunteers and organizers of Riverdale RiverFest. They pulled off a great festival in spite of the rain. I saw many friends and fellow Riverdalians in attendance. I even met a fellow Streetsblog commenter. I’d also like to commend all the participants in the NYMTC study for their excellent work. I reviewed the various materials available both in person at the event and online, and the accuracy and level of detail regarding the precise path through which they propose the greenway be extended is exceptional. I also think that, while I may be coming to this late in the game, the various planners and participants in the process were clearly able to talk to the right people, as I don’t think I would have altered a single choice from their final proposed route if it were up to me.
For anyone truly interested, I’d recommend going to the NYMTC web site and downloading the full PDF of the plan. At a hefty 81 pages of full-color photos and diagrams with paragraph after paragraph of small-font text descriptions, this is certainly no quick read. Interested parties should also check out the comments on the plan by Friends of the Hudson River Greenway. For those looking for just the bottom line, here’s my quick overview.
The plan details a route from the current northern terminus of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway at Dyckman Street to the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in northern Yonkers. Since the former bikeway starts at the mouth of the Hudson in Upper New York Bay, while the latter continues northward virtually uninterrupted until Croton-on-Hudson., the Riverdale and south Yonkers piece of the greenway is the last missing link necessary to complete an epic 40-mile bikeway along the east bank of the Hudson River.
While traveling north from Riverdale to enjoy the progressively more pastoral views along the Hudson by bicycle may be a very attractive recreational opportunity, it is the path south towards Manhattan that is of greatest potential utility to Riverdalians. In this regard, the proposed route includes many critical upgrades, mostly directly along my route to work.
By far the costliest aspect of the improvement is the construction of a cantilevered side-path adjacent to the current pedestrian-only walkway on the Henry Hudson Bridge. Although recently it would appear that the local authorities are looking the other way as many cyclists crossing the bridge ride their bikes across, the fact remains that the path is barely passable by people crossing in opposite directions without stopping, let alone bikes. In addition to the narrowness of this path, there are 3 sets of stairs on this route, and the proposal suggests eliminating all of them. First, a small set of stairs on the Bronx end of the Henry Hudson Bridge is to be replaced with a ramp. Second, 2 sets of stairs on either side of a short bridge crossing the Amtrak rail lines are also to be replaced with ramps. A final 4th set of stairs from Riverside Drive up to the Greenway is already being replaced with a ramp to Dyckman.
Unfortunately, the proposed route does nothing to help cyclists contend with the steep ascent through Inwood Hill Park to the Henry Hudson Bridge. Nevertheless, given that Riverdale is located on a hill, one way or another you’re going to have to do some climbing to get there from the waterfront in Manhattan. Furthermore, alternatives on either the Spuyten Duyvil swing bridge or the Broadway bridge limit access at certain times of the day and/or take one away from the main population density centers. As for adding a switchback to the hill in Inwood, this was considered but the forever-wild status of the park prevents any further development that would harm the existing forest.
Once getting across the Henry Hudson Bridge into Riverdale, the plan calls for a series of on-street routes taking one down to Palisade Ave. Eventually, the plans also call for the development of a truly waterfront path on the Hudson itself, but considering the topological and infrastructural impediments to such a path, I am very glad the NYMTC chose to go with the Palisade Ave path as a medium-term goal. A waterfront path would necessarily have only a few access points, with none proposed between 232nd Street and 254th Street. A path along Palisade Ave would provide convenient additional access points for the many residents of Riverdale’s apartment buildings. Furthermore, the Palisade Ave path plan also includes the extension of Palisade Ave for bikes only along Riverdale Park from Spaulding Lane to 254th Street, another welcome improvement.
All-in-all, I’m very pleased and excited by the NYMTC plan. Now it is incumbent upon our local and state politicians to secure funding and begin work on this potentially transformational project.