Grinding gears: City closes bike path to make way for international electric-car race

No ride: The Greenway around the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is closed in preparation for the Formula E race.
Brooklyn Paper
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Talk about picking a lane!

The city closed a section of the dedicated Greenway bike path along the Red Hook waterfront for nearly three weeks as the nabe gears up to host a leg of the allegedly environmentally-friendly, international electric-car racing series Formula E, leaving area cyclists with nowhere safe to pedal during peak riding season, according to local leaders.

“The Greenway is heavily used — especially at this time of year,” said Eric McClure, Chairman of the Community Board 6 Transportation Committee. “Not having accommodation for Greenway users while they’re taking up the space seems like an error in judgment.”

The landscaped, green-colored path that runs along Bowne Street between Commerce and Verona streets is closed from July 3 to 21 so crews can set up the race’s fan village, where spectators can buy items such as food and merchandise during the two-day competition on July 15 and 16, according to a Formula E spokesman.

Access to a portion of the stretch — some of which has been covered by concrete slabs — is blocked by fences, and planters that normally sit beside it were exiled to nearby sidewalks, where signs announcing the lane’s closure have been posted.

The city recommended on Twitter that riders cycle along nearby Van Brunt Street instead, but they must share that road with drivers, making it far less safe than the Greenway, according to McClure.

“Van Brunt doesn’t offer any protected space the way the Greenway does for bike riders and runners,” he said.

Drivers in the massive race — who have taken their battery-powered cars to the streets of such exotic locales as Hong Kong, Marrakesh, and Paris — will zoom along a route that runs past the Cruise Terminal and hooks around Atlantic Basin, going to the edge of Pioneer and Conover streets, then running parallel to Imlay Street.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation — the agency working on the event with Formula E — claimed it would include locals in the process when it announced the race last year, but McClure said he had not heard of the Greenway closure until reached by this paper.

And some locals said blocking off a key access point for cyclists in the subway-starved nabe made them question just how much city and Formula E honchos have engaged residents.

“How are you involving the neighborhood when you close the bike lane?” said a Van Brunt Street business owner who asked not to be named.

City Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Red Hook) said he also never received advance notice about the plan to close the Greenway, and that he asked city and Formula E officials to host community meetings this week, in order to address locals’ concerns before the race weekend.

“Event operators failed to offer advance notice to nearby residents and cyclists — including myself — who rely on that section of bike path,” he said. “At a site visit last week, I called on the Formula E team and the EDC to demonstrate their commitment to community relations by conducting a pair of open meetings this week to address this and any other concerns.”

The Formula E rep acknowledged it dropped the ball by closing the bike lane, but said it was an inevitable consequence of setting up the fan village planned for the site, and that the organization did all it could to not put locals out by hosting the event.

“I completely understand these comments,” said Sam Mallinson. “We want to minimize the disruption in our host cities. The stretch is unfortunate but we feel that having worked closely with local authorities, we’ve limited the impact on the neighborho­od.”

The Department of Transportation did not return requests for comment.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 5:57 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jim from Cobble Hill says:
I don't mind some closures for something like this, but 3 weeks is quite excessive.
July 10, 2017, 7:42 am
Juan from Prospect Heights says:
THE HORROR!!!!! THE HORROR!!!!!! Such First World Problems!!!!!!!
July 10, 2017, 9:06 am
Tyler from pps says:
Well, Juan, this is supposed to be the "first world" after all... no?

By the way -- the whole Monaco Grand Prix circuit only takes 6 weeks to build each year -- and those streets are basically open except on race days.
July 10, 2017, 9:24 am
Gene from Bushwick says:
Yes, a closure for 1-2 days makes sense, but 3 weeks is entirely too excessive. You'd think an electric car race would be sensitive to bicycling and alternative transportation modes.
July 10, 2017, 10:21 am
Adrian Horczak from Ridgewood says:
Imagine the uproar if a street was closed for 3 weeks to prepare for this.
July 10, 2017, 10:51 am
Chicken underwear from Park slope says:
Yeah, why don't they take away a lane where cars would go
July 10, 2017, 11:18 am
Frank from Furter says:
It makes me nervous driving my car on can brunt...buses trucks narrow street too. I can't imagine being on a bike
..there is always the ferry.

Unfortunately there isn't much street there either...
July 10, 2017, 1:01 pm
Frank from Furter says:
Van correct makes it can burnt
July 10, 2017, 1:02 pm
Joe R. from Flushing says:
This doesn't affect me personally but I can understand the sentiment. That said, I'll go out on a limb and say it may well be worth it. Formula E is doing things like increasing the visibility of electric drive and testing on the fly recharging. That latter, if it works, could be a game changer. It would make the range issue (and many people's excuse for not going electric) moot. That could greatly speed up the adoption of EVs. Granted, any type of car in a big city causes issues, but at least EVs eliminate one of the biggest problems, namely pollution. I'll take a few weeks a year disruption on one bike path (even if it affected me personally) in exchange for breathing cleaner air in the long run.
July 10, 2017, 4:39 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Umm... Carol, what part of my comment was so disturbing and "troll" like to you?
July 10, 2017, 5:09 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
And awaaayyyy we go! Free Kekistan!
July 10, 2017, 5:50 pm
Bob Marvin from PLG says:
So, they've inconvenienced a community for an commercial sporting event. For shame to whichever idiots approved this!
July 10, 2017, 5:50 pm
EME from Red Hook says:
For those not living in Red Hook, please understand that there is no safe alternative for our kids to bike in and out of Red Hook. This protected bike lane is a life line that allows children to safely travel in and out of Red Hook. Every other route involves heavy truck and bus traffic, having to go the wrong way on streets, using sidewalks, and having to navigate around the brooklyn battery tunnel which has no safe passage for pedestrians or bicyclists. Even getting to the pedestrian bridge over the BQE involves several dangerous intersections with heavy trucks and industrial machines and equipment using the same streets. So 3 weeks in mid-summer? That is not ok.
July 11, 2017, 9:25 am
Rich from Sheepshead Bay says:
I totally understand the Red Hook neighborhood concerns and am quite familiar with the area having been going there for the past 25 yrs - but come on, it's barely 3 weeks and no one is looking at the significant revenue that this 2 day event will bring to RH's businesses with 10 to 20,000 people visiting. While they prob should have shut down car traffic on van brunt, you guys at least now (finally) have ferry transp to Manhattan, far more than we have at the bottom of Brooklyn where our terrible subway has been taking on average 1 1/2 hours to get to midtown and we are one of the only neighborhoods with no ferry to the city.
July 11, 2017, 10:26 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I find this to be ironic because when streets are closed for vehicular traffic the anti-car fanatics praise this. However, when it comes to closing up a greenway, the bike zealots start crying foul to this. Then again, what did Eric McClure mean by that it was used a lot? I take it that it's most likely by flash mobs that come over for a photo-op every now and then when so much of the bicycle infrastructure that they push for hardly ever goes used. If you don't believe me, try asking those who are near these things and are constantly looking at them on a regular basis.
July 11, 2017, 3:39 pm
Adamben from Bedstuy says:
"The Department of Transportation did not return requests for comment."

So much for involving the community. Ever!
July 11, 2017, 3:53 pm
Ken from Clinton Hill says:
must of the bikers are stupid people...
July 12, 2017, 4:49 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Personally, I don't see anything special of Formula One Racing let alone anything else involving racecars in that matter. For the most part I just find it boring to see them going around the same track several times as if there isn't anything special about it. Also, the racer who is heavily favored usually does win anyway making it very predictable. Then again, most cyclists do make up less than 1% of the city's commuters according to a recent study in the US Census Bureau, so I doubt they will be missing much with the greenway closed off especially when they aren't a big number to begin with.
July 13, 2017, 3:14 pm
Ken from Clinton Hill has the grapes to call others stupid, while misspelling "most".
What a dullard.
July 14, 2017, 11:06 am

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