By Georgia Kral
Earlier this summer, the State Department of Transportation closed the Hamilton Avenue Pedestrian Bridge, which links Red Hook and Carroll Gardens, for repairs. The DOT alerted residents, elected officials and community leaders only days before the closure.
According to Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board 6, the short notice was only one aggravating aspect of the way the state handled the bridge closing. Hammerman said the community had long offered solutions to problems with the pedestrian bridge, and had received little if any response.
“We were completely caught off guard by this sudden news from your department,” he wrote in a letter to State DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald. “It is frustrating to think that the State of New York will be investing hundreds of thousands if not millions of scarce tax-payer dollars into a band-aid approach to improve the condition of this pedestrian bridge, while associated problems that have vexed this community for too long continue to go unaddressed.”
Issues include safety, the bridge has long been considered a "convenient way for perpetrators while in the commission of crimes to evade capture, according to Hammerman, and basic maintenance.
Hammerman’s letter, along with feedback from the community, prompted State Senator Daniel Squadron to host a meeting with the interested parties, from the DOT to community leaders including Maria Pagano of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association.
At the meeting, the DOT agreed to work with the community on making sure people who use the bridge on a daily basis, including school children who attend the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies and the Brooklyn New School on Henry Street, are aware of safe detours.
"The Hamilton Ave Bridge construction raised legitimate concerns about safety -- for the community at large and for students as they travel to and from school," said Squadron.
A flyer is being created by the DOT that will be distributed to the local schools.
It is being developed “so that the public who relied on the bridge...would have more guidance on how to safely navigate pedestrian detour routes,” Hammerman wrote in an email.
“We really want them to have flyers available in anticipation of the start of the school year,” he added.
State DOT spokesperson Adam Levine said the reason the community was alerted to the closure at the last minute was because the bridge was originally slated to be repaired in 2014.
"Recent inspections of the bridge detected more severe deterioration than initially thought, and the concern was that, following two harsh winters in a row, a third bad winter could force a long-term or emergency closure," he said.
And while this is a move in the right direction, Hammerman is still concerned with what he says is DOT's disregard for the community.
It's unfortunate that the State [DOT] went ahead with this project without talking to the affected community because many of the issues we raised were foreseeable and should have been included in the planning process," he wrote in an email. "If they continue to plan projects in isolation, I can imagine a series of nightmares coming our way in the future."