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Replacement Bridge for E. 78th Street Walkway Expected By Barge in May

By Amy Zimmer | April 20, 2011 5:43pm | Updated on April 21, 2011 6:34am

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

UPPER EAST SIDE — A pedestrian bridge is expected to arrive by barge at East 78th Street in mid-May to replace the decrepit walkway linking FDR Drive to the waterfront esplanade that was rated among the three worst bridges in the city.

The Department of Transportation, which has temporarily closed not only the walkway, but also a chunk of the esplanade from 76th to 79th streets — is hoping to wrap up the $11.9 million project by August. The arrival of the barge from where it is being made in Camden, N.J., is a key part of the redevelopment.

Since October, joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and parents pushing strollers have been re-directed to get access to the waterfront promenade at East 71st or East 81st streets — but there's still a closed off section in between, which has disappointed some locals who like to spend the warmer weather along the waterfront.

Greta Catlin, 41, who has been walking her golden retriever, Hurley, over the 78th Street pedestrian bridge for nine years, said the section that's currently closed off was her favorite because it was always the quietest.

"I try to shy away from going north along the water because it's more crowded and I don't want my dog running around with all the people and strollers," Catlin said. "It's my little place of solitude. It's a little part of the city people don't know about."

During next month's bridge replacement, DOT will schedule a few detours for cars along the FDR Drive on Sunday nights, DOT community liaison Deborah Howes said.

"It's a challenging site," Howes said. "The contractor has been working well within constraints. Coming up soon there will be noise, lights and construction at night. … Work has to be done at night. We don't want to close the FDR Drive during the day. It's a very busy highway."

Howes said she hopes to give the community two weeks notice before the closures.

The bridge needed an overhaul for several reasons: it's in poor condition, it's not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, it's not wide enough for bike and walkers side-by-side, and it doesn't provide sufficient clearance for all emergency vehicles on the FDR Drive.

Joyce Matz, who lives in the nearby City and Suburban Homes complex, said the bridge closure has been difficult for her elderly neighbors or "partially handicapped" like herself who can't walk that far to the other walkways.

"They go down that little bridge and sit in the sun," she said. "I used to go down there all the time and take a book and my dog."

Adriana Kapfer, 43, with her young children in John Jay Park — right next to the walkway's entrance — said she preferred to stay in the park than go to the river since it's been too cold.

"If you want something better you have to build it and wait sometimes," she said. "It's going to be better soon."

With the new span rising off-site, there seemed to be scant work at the old bridge, a crane resting still atop a barge next to it, on Wednesday afternoon.

Matz had her doubts about the speed of construction. "I'll make a bet: I don't think it will be done by August. Not August this year."