In the ‘Nantucket of New York,’ a Bridge to Agitation

November 18, 2008 at 12:24 am Leave a comment

BARBARA DOLENSEK, the vice president of the City Island Historical Society, didn’t get the chance to wave her sign at the centennial celebration of the Pelham Bay Bridge nearly three weeks ago.

But no matter; it wasn’t celebration that was on her mind. Ms. Dolensek wanted to protest the city’s plans for an entirely different bridge, one a few miles away that was built in 1901 to connect City Island and the Bronx mainland.

While the rains foiled her plans, she and other residents will continue to oppose the city’s design for the span that will replace the decaying 950-foot-long City Island Bridge. The Department of Transportation has chosen a design featuring cables and a 150-foot tower, one that residents believe is ill-suited to their small nautical community, where buildings can be no higher than about three stories.

“People call it the Nantucket of New York City,” said Barbara Hoffman, the president of the City Island Garden Club. “Here they’re going to put this monstrosity up.”

Work on the project was supposed to begin in July 2006, but when that did not happen, residents began to wonder if they might be able to have more say.

Ms. Hoffman wanted officials to consider a design similar to that of the new Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, which replaced the bridge that collapsed in August 2007. Ms. Dolensek agreed, saying the simple causeway design would be suitable for City Island. “We prefer to be a little bit quiet,” she said.

The city disagrees. Craig Chin, a transportation spokesman, said the cable bridge was more economical and environmentally friendly than the other options; he added that the cable bridge was in keeping with the island’s image.

“The new mast-type structure with the tower and the cables — it imitates the sailboats that are in the City Island community,” Mr. Chin said, noting, however, that construction had been postponed until 2011 primarily because of city budget concerns.

The Minneapolis design would not work for City Island, he added, because the approaches would be too long.

Over lunch at the City Island Diner the day before the centennial celebration, Ms. Dolensek and Jane Protzman, a board member of the City Island Civic Association, sat side by side, each with a folder marked “bridge” and filled with clippings. They discussed what to write on their signs for the protest that never was, and how events like the celebration for the Pelham Bay Bridge made them feel that the City Island Bridge has been slighted. They also discussed their chances for success.

“If they’ve already sent out and awarded the contracts, there’s probably not a lot we can do other than lie down on the bridge when they bring the bulldozers in,” Ms. Dolensek said with a smile.

By KATHERINE BINDLEY
New York Times

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Entry filed under: Bronx, Go Coastal, Public Waterfront. Tags: , , .

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