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Loss of Parking in High Bridge Plan Will Hurt the Working Class, Locals Say

 The DOT wants to increase pedestrian and cyclist access to the High Bridge, which will reopen in July.
The DOT wants to increase pedestrian and cyclist access to the High Bridge, which will reopen in July.
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Department of Transportation

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The city’s plan to improve pedestrian and cyclist access between Uptown and The Bronx near the High Bridge hit some bumps when locals argued against a proposed reduction of parking — saying it would hurt working-class residents who don't have the "luxury" of trading cars for bikes.

The Department of Transportation's plan aims to calm traffic on Edgecombe Avenue, which runs along Highbridge Park, by adding a protected bike lane and more crosswalks to the stretch.

However, the proposal faced opposition from some Community Board 12 members due to the loss of 17 parking spaces, more than half of which would come from the area around Edgecombe Avenue and 165th Street.

"This is a working-class area. People don’t have the luxury of riding their bike in the morning and leaving their Beamer at home,” said CB12 transportation committee member James Berlin, noting it would be difficult to approve of a plan in an area where parking is already a problem for those relying on cars to get to and from work.

“Don’t be surprised if the board looks to get some of those parking spots back.”

Under the DOT’s proposal, a two-way bike lane would be installed along Edgecombe Avenue between 165th and 170th streets. The bike lane would be separated from traffic by a barrier and, in some areas, a lane of parked cars.

“This kind of path provides a setting where families feel comfortable bicycling,” DOT representative Acacia Dupierre said at CB12's transportation committee Monday night.

The DOT would also install a shared bike-and-vehicle lane on the stretch of Edgecombe Avenue from 155th to 165th streets.

In addition, three pedestrian crosswalks would be added to Edgecombe Avenue: one between 155th and 157th streets, and one each at 162nd and 165th streets. 

The dedicated bike lane would not disrupt parking along the one-way section of Edgecombe Avenue between 167th Street and Jumel Place. However, 23 parking spaces would be lost on the two-way section of Edgecombe Avenue the runs between 165th and 167th streets, and three more would be taken away near the intersection of Edgecombe Avenue and Jumel Place.

Of the spots removed under the plan, seven are scattered over three other locations in the area. But board members didn't take issue with the loss of those spaces the way they did with the spots around Edgecombe Avenue and 165th Street.

“Parking is such a big problem Uptown,” said Uptown resident Robert North. “Losing 20-some spots is horrendous.”

To make up for the loss, the DOT plans to add about 16 parking spaces to two areas of Edgecombe Avenue, near 167th Street and Jumel Place, which are currently designated for other uses, Dupierre said.

A dozen other residents who attended the meeting spoke in support of the DOT’s proposal, saying that the reopening of the High Bridge will bring changes to the community, like it or not.

“You’re gong to see a lot more people going back and forth between Manhattan and The Bronx, so the status quo is untenable,” said Thomas DeVito, a senior organizer with Transportation Alternatives. “You’re going to have many vulnerable people, like kids, going back and forth.”

Lifelong Washington Heights resident Maria Lopez said that pedestrian safety needed to be prioritized over parking spaces.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the working-class people I know have MetroCards,” Lopez said in response to Berlin’s statements. “I drive, but I support this plan.”

The DOT’s main goal is to improve access to the High Bridge, which is being restored to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to travel between Manhattan and The Bronx, and should reopen in July.

To that end, the DOT also proposed creating two crosstown connections for cyclists traveling from the Henry Hudson Greenway to reach the High Bridge. A dedicated, two-way bike lane would be installed on 170th Street, while 158th and 159th streets would each be marked with shared bike-and-vehicle lanes.

The committee voted to approve the plan with the stipulation that the DOT find a way to minimize the loss of parking spaces along Edgecombe Avenue.

The proposal will go before the full board at the end of March.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article identified Thomas DeVito as an Uptown resident. He is actually a senior organizer of Manhattan projects for Transportation Alternatives.