A New York Bridge Set for Demolition Could Become a Park Instead

© Milagros Lecuona

Since the High Line opened in New York City in 2009, there has been widespread enthusiasm for parks in unexpected (and narrow) places. The latest proposal is for the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown, which crosses the Hudson River 20 miles north of New York City and is slated for replacement and demolition. Tappan Bridge Park would be a three mile long linear park over an especially beautiful stretch of river.

Joe Shlabotnik/CC BY 2.0. The Tappan Zee Bridge, over the Hudson River.

The current bridge opened in 1955 and has seriously deteriorated under the weight of more daily traffic than it was designed to support. Construction of a replacement bridge has been expedited by Governor Andrew Cuomo and will begin next year. (The environmental impact of that project is under fire for a lack of public transportation options from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which works to reduce car dependency.)

A Bold Plan

The idea to save the Tappan Zee from demolition has been floating around pretty much since the new bridge became a possibility. In 2000, Tarrytown resident Jane Schneider wrote to then Governor George Pataki, asking: "instead of demolishing the old one (Tappan Zee Bridge), would there be the wildest chance to keep the old bridge and make it a walking bridge?" More recently, Milagros Lecuona, an urban planner and now co-chair of the Tappan Bridge Park initiative, had the same idea. When she discovered that she wasn't the first, she said, “it was terrific, I’m not the only person with this crazy idea!”

Lecuona joined with other community members and Greenburgh town supervisor Paul Feiner to make the proposal a serious one. She drew up renderings of what the park could look like. They created a petition calling for the conversion of the bridge and coined the slogan, "Reinventing with vision, not demolition."

Could It Happen?

Saving the Tappan Zee is rather unlikely, however. The draft of the environmental review includes plans for demolition. Lecuona argues that the reasons given for the demolition are "not well founded," and the problems posed could easily be overcome. But officials don't seem to be listening, and it could take a lot of signatures to make it a possibility, let alone a reality.

If things do progress, the next step would be a feasibility study, which can be expensive. But Lecuona points out that it took nearly ten years to build the High Line, and that the success of that project could help the Tappan Bridge Park get off the ground. It's a nice idea, but still a long shot.

Tags: New York State | Reusability

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