With public meetings about the impending L train shutdown beginning this week, much of the conversation is centered around alternate ways to shuttle people between downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. One solution is the East River Skyway, an aerial gondola system that would run along the Brooklyn waterfront and into Manhattan, bringing commuters over the river in just 3.5 minutes. The proposal from Dan Levy, president and CEO of CityRealty*, first surfaced in 2014, then referencing the Brooklyn development boom that will bring tens of thousands of new residential units to the borough in the coming years. But now with a possible years-long shutdown of the L, along with skyrocketing subway ridership, the Skyway is drumming up support from investors, DNA Info reports.
Levy told 6sqft, “We’ve completed some preliminary engineering and design work around the cars and the stations and how they could meld with their respective locations — and more broadly the city skyline. Given their high visibility we want to be context sensitive.” He also revealed that, although the project would cost up to $134 million (per estimate from engineers), an unlimited monthly pass would cost only $25.
Currently, the L train moves 300,000 passengers a day, and at the Bedford Avenue station, for example, traffic has increased by more than 50 percent since 2007. The gondolas would fit 40 people each and arrive every 30 seconds, bringing 200,000 daily commuters from Williamsburg to Delancey Street in less than five minutes. And as is outlined above, once the full, three-phase scheme is realized, travel times will be drastically reduced.
The first phase, Williamsburg to the Lower East Side, includes a new station above Delancey Street connecting either side of Sarah Roosevelt Park, the original Williamsburg waterfront station, and a new station at the bus depot at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge (added to the plan to account for the L train shutdown). Phase two would connect Williamsburg to Greenpoint Landing, Long Island City, and Roosevelt Island, where it will connect with the existing tram and end near the United Nations. Phase three would connect the Brooklyn Navy Yard with DUMBO and the South Street Seaport.
If the L train shutdown were to proceed, it would likely take effect in 2019, leaving a fairly small window for the Skyway to get built. But according to Levy, it’s definitely doable, as he points to a similar gondola system in London that went up quickly before the Olympics in 2012. He also explains that the cable car system is much simpler than other infrastructure projects like bridges or tunnels, since it’s light in weight and only requires three or four towers with a connecting cable.
More information on the project can be found on the official East River Skyway page.
*Disclosure: CityRealty is 6sqft’s publisher
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