UPPER EAST SIDE — The city is refusing to discuss why it stopped working on a wheelchair ramp at the East 81st Street pedestrian bridge that had been under construction to bring it into compliance with federal law, residents say.
Community Board 8 members and residents said construction on the ramp came to a halt last month, but they haven't been able to get officials to respond to conflicting explanations that the work stopped due to budget reasons or that it's on pause due to a design issue with the ramp.
"Work has been halted on the 81st Street access ramp and we need to know why," said Margaret Price, CB8's design committee co-chair. "We want to get this project finished. It's been dragging on too long…and too much taxpayer money is being wasted. We must put a stop to this and get it going."
The project is a joint effort between the Parks and Recreation Department, Department of Design and Construction and Department of Transportation effort, but the DDC approached CB8 last December for its input on the bridge and ramp, which connects the neighborhood to the East River Esplanade.
The bridge was only accessible by stairs going up from East 81st Street. The addition of a ramp would bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, officials said.
The ramp was planned to make a u-shape on its way down to the street, but residents said that would take up too much space and potentially block a service entrance to residential buildings nearby at 45 and 33 East End Avenue.
Ultimately members suggested the ramp be moved to East 82nd or 84th streets instead to minimize impact on residents who live in the area.
The DDC and the city's Parks Department officials said they would continue its discussion of the bridge and ramp but residents say they haven't gotten an update.
Construction was already underway until last month, according to Claudia Ullman, a resident of 1 Gracie Terrace on 82nd Street.
"Last month we had a meeting with transportation committee members where the DDC informed us work on the access ramp had been halted and they claimed it was for budget reasons," she said. "Then at a recent Civitas meeting about the East River Esplanade, Councilman Ben Kallos said it was halted due to design reasons."
Kallos declined to comment on Friday and deferred questions to the city, but the DDC deferred to the Parks Department, and the Parks Department referred all questions to the DDC.
The DOT also referred all questions to the DDC.
The parks and recreation committee voted to table the discussion until it can gather city officials to discuss the matter publicly at a joint meeting with the transportation committee in September.