I have a confession to make. Though I suspect food and drink are my writerly calling, I sometimes dream of being an expert on my other, less comestible, passion: transportation. I’ve researched and written about many transportation issues for grad school, but I’ve never offered up my thoughts in a public forum like this blog. But now’s as good a time as any to get started on a theme that’s dogged me for my whole life. Ever since I was a tiny (okay, tinier) kindergartener with a somewhat-lengthy commute to school, I’ve been invested in transportation, a topic close to the hearts of all New Yorkers. I hope I’ll transport you with many a story in the future, but right now I want to call your attention to one specific cause: the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, glorious connector of Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Okay, now that you’ve thought about the Verrazano for a moment, consider some of NYC’s many other impressive bridges–the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg ones, for starters–and then think about how, if you’re like me, you’ve walked across them countless times. (Or at least you plan to–I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’d never walked a bridge until a college classmate suggested it not so many years ago. I like to think I’ve made up for lost time and ground in the intervening ten years or so.) But the Verrazano–so big and glorious that its engineers had to take the curvature of the Earth into account! (possibly my favorite factoid from Robert Caro’s marvelous The Power Broker about our local master builder and master monster Robert Moses)–boasts no such paths. The MTA has recently begun a pilot program for racks on buses so that two–two!–bikes can ride astride the prows of buses crossing the bridge. But other than that, if you want to cross that breathtaking span without a motor vehicle, you’d best train for the NYC marathon (or the Five Boro Bike Tour, thanks, Mark), ’cause that’s the only way you’ll manage.
So what if you, too, could walk or bike the Verrazano? What if you could satisfy your wanderlust, or visit your family, or do whatever else you’d like to do on Staten Island, without need of a car? That’s the dream put forth by Transportation Alternatives and the Harbor Ring Committee, and it’s been a dream of mine too, ever since I first got the bright idea to take the ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island and the bus back to Brooklyn, only to realize how frustrating–and hazardous for a pedestrian–it was. And so last Saturday I found myself volunteering for TransAlt’s rally to make a bike and pedestrian path a reality.
At the rally, Bay Ridge and Staten Island residents and elected officials, plus runners, cyclists, and curious and even initially skeptical passers-by, offered a broad base of support for crossing the Verrazano sans car. I suspect I’ll always remember one attendee saying that she’d been advocating for a pedestrian and bike path since before the bridge was even built–certainly more commitment than I could ever claim. And, perhaps even more excitingly, the rally’s organizers announced that the MTA is working on a feasibility study for the path. So keep your fingers crossed, and check out the advocates’ work, and maybe one day you can listen to me pontificate about transit and food as we walk across the dazzling height of the Verrazano.
(And maybe, while we take a stroll through scenic Bay Ridge on our way to or from the bridge, we can stop by my #1-all-time-favorite bakery Robicelli’s. Who knows, maybe you too would appreciate some warm pumpkin coffee cake and whiskey pecan pie for breakfast.)
Transportation Alternatives on the Harbor Ring
Robicelli’s, 9009 5th Avenue, Bay Ridge (stay tuned for more, including pictures of marvelous pies, cupcakes, and puddings)