Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Greenway Pedals Forward

Almost 100 people packed into Speak Low Cocktail Lounge here on Monday night to acknowledge the tireless efforts of the three founders of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) and those who have supported them for the past five years.

It’s BGI’s five-year anniversary, but its founders,
Meg Fellerath, Brian McCormick and Milton Puryear (pictured above with Independence Community Foundation (ICF) Executive Director Marilyn Gelber), have been advocating for the Greenway for much longer.

“Myself and Milton have been working on the Greenway since 1998,” McCormick told the Eagle in December. “We were the chair and co-chair of an organization called the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Task Force. Meg joined us about a couple of years later.”

The three of them incorporated as the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative in 2004. They envisioned the 14-mile off-road path, spanning from Greenpoint all the way down to Bay Ridge, to be multi-use and have different components. According to BGI’s plan, the path will be between 20 and 30 feet wide in total, encompassing a 4- to 8-foot landscaped buffer between it and the street, a 10- to 12-foot bike bath, and a 6- to 10-foot pedestrian path.

Because the route travels through many different neighborhoods and community boards, the first step was to enlist the support of these community boards and their officials.

The magnitude of the project required that it be split into pieces. The first piece was “the middle section, Community Boards 2 and 6 — the Brooklyn Navy Yard through Red Hook,” as Puryear described it. Next, they tackled the area in Community Board 1, Greenpoint and Williamsburg, and started setting up design guidelines.

“One of the purposes of the design guidelines was to try to come up with a scheme that would let you know that you were on the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway no matter where you were on it,” he continued. “But that also allowed each neighborhood to have a different feel in design quality. Unlike Hudson River Park, which is fairly uniform in terms of the Greenway design, we envisioned the Brooklyn Waterfront to really look good and feel different in different neighborhoods.”

Puryear told the Eagle that the next step for BGI would be to work with the city to develop what he called a “master plan for the whole 14 miles of the Greenway.” And now, this step is slowly approaching a reality.

BGI announced at the party that “the NYC Department of Transportation has committed to a producing a master plan for the entire 14-mile Greenway route — a major project milestone,” said McCormick. “This work will begin later this year.”

Also announced on Monday night were two more partnerships: one with the Horticultural Society of New York to launch a green-collar mentoring program along the Greenway route, and another with the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation to offer historic bicycle tours of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the fall.

Upcoming events include the seventh annual Greenway Bike Tour, on May 2, and as usual, BGI will continue its monthly Greenway cleanups, which take place on a stretch of Columbia Street along the waterfront that was paved last summer. McCormick has called it the “non-designed interim Greenway,” and BGI has assumed responsibility for its upkeep.

“If people are going to use it and think it’s the Greenway, we need to do our part,” Fellerath said. The monthly cleanups along the street generate interest, build the community and “establish our presence on the Greenway.”

The next cleanup will be this Saturday, April 4. For more information or to RSVP, e-mail To register for the 10-mile Greenway Bike Tour, send full name and contact information to

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