Volume 22, Number 23 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 16 - 22, 2009
Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert
More people were using the Rector St. bridge this week after it opened last Friday.
Rector St. bridge reopens, elevator still a work in progress
The Rector St. pedestrian bridge reopened last Friday afternoon but few people used it the first day. The handful who did take notice of the change were pleasantly surprised.
Stefano Turrini, who looked to be in his 20s, just moved to 235 Rector St. from Rome, Italy last month, and happily carried his groceries across the overpass. “We had to go a very long way just to reach the other side,” he said. “When we realized it was open today, we were like, finally. It was a big stress in the morning.”
Built with federal 9/11 rebuilding funds, the Rector St. bridge connects pedestrians to the other side of the busy six-lane West Side Highway.
Roland Yampolsky, who works on Wall St. and also appeared to be in his 20s, said, “The best part about this is not waiting for the light. You could be standing there for 5 minutes, and it feels like forever. I don’t have to wait now…this is so much easier.” The light is so long, in fact, that when it changed green for the cars last Friday, the construction worker holding up the stop sign for pedestrians dropped the sign to the ground, went to go lean against a lamppost, and lit up a cigarette.
Victor Gonzalez, 35, massage therapist and personal trainer, uses the steps of the bridge to train his clients. Upon realizing the elevators still weren’t working, he empathized with those who aren’t as able bodied as his clients. “I can’t even imagine what it must be like to cross that highway in a wheelchair,” he said.
Gonzalez, who lives at Greenwich and Rector Sts., said he didn’t even know why the bridge was closed in the first place. “It didn’t look like it needed repairs…what did they even repair?”
The state closed the bridge to reconfigure the stairs on the east side so that they fit into the rebuilt Route 9A. The state also made the stairs less steep, improved the railings and enhanced the lighting on the east side of the bridge.
Still in need of repair is the elevator, which was damaged by a Battery Park City Authority contractor, according to Adam Levine, a New York State Department of Transportation spokesperson. Levine said that the B.P.C.A. would get a replacement part for the elevator, but could not say when the elevator would be repaired.
Leticia Remauro, spokesperson for the B.P.C.A, said it was a contractor who did damage to the bridge, but since there were two different jobs being done by the state D.O.T. and the B.P.C.A., there’s no way of determining which contractor did what. “We saw that the handle was off the door, which made it a dangerous,” said Remauro. “We’re trying to get it up and running.”
Ali Hussain, who lives at 75 West St., uses a cane because of his recent A.C.L. injury. “The elderly and handicapped, like myself, have trouble with a lot of places down here because they aren’t handicap accessible,” he said. “I don’t know what their agenda is or what they plan to do about it, but this is a big problem.”
By Tuesday, the elevator still wasn’t operational, but there was twice as much foot traffic on the bridge. Senior citizen Helen Henry said she had to cross the highway because the bridge’s ramp was too difficult for her to navigate with her walker. “The highway is more dangerous, but it’s easier. I would like to take an elevator if there was one on both sides,” she said.
Maggie Hilario pushed a stroller across the highway and was trailed by three other children. “This makes life very difficult,” said Hilario. “We had to carry the stroller up and down the stairs already. If the elevator was working, I’d definitely take the bridge.”