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81st Street Pedestrian Bridge Design Looks Like 'Prison Yard,' Critics Say

By DNAinfo Staff on October 5, 2012 4:18pm

UPPER EAST SIDE — The controversial East 81st Street pedestrian bridge renovation design looks  like "a prison yard" and could prompt misbehavior from bike riders, locals complained at a recent meeting.

The $10 million overhaul, which will replace the currently crumbling 81st Street Bridge, features two sections — one section, a new span with a ramp, would replace the existing bridge, while the other is a nearly two-block long, 10-foot-wide waterfront ramp to connect the East River esplanade to the Carl Schurz Park promenade. 

The structure would be built off site and brought in via barge, like the recently completed East 78th Street pedestrian bridge. 

When it was originally announced, proponents said "It would be bike-friendly, pedestrian friendly and ADA friendly."

But preliminary renderings put forward revealed the bridge will include a wire mesh wall separating the FDR drive from the promenade along the East River — frustrating locals who wanted the enclosure to be more attractive and in keeping with neighborhood standards. 

"It's very prison yard-like," said one resident at Community Board 8's Transportation Committee meeting Wednesday.

Bharat Parekh, director of infrastructure at New York City's Department of Design and Construction, said that the department had reviewed possible materials and determined that the mesh steel was the best option. 

Teri Slater, on CB8's Landmark's Committee, also warned that the proposed grade of the ramp was too steep and could invite speeding.

She said the decal indicating a shared pedestrian and bike lane has become "a symbol of that thing we've come to hate."

The Committee ultimately agreed that security cameras and call boxes were a must. The project  has a planned start date of Spring 2013.