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Reference > Transportation Planning > Bicycle Network Development Printer Friendly Version
A Greenway Plan for New York City, 1993

Priority Routes
A number of routes have been identified as priorities for early action, based on the criteria below.

  • Potential for completing a system now substantially in place, or part of a long-distance trail.
  • Corridors with roadway congestion or air quality problems where moving people from cars and taxis to bicycles or walking could make a significant difference.
  • Potential for a high volume of use because of proximity to major employment, cultural or educational centers, or to regional parks.
  • Geographic balance throughout the city.
  • Relatively low cost to establish (e.g., acquisition not required), or the cost-to-use ratio is relatively low.

The Hudson River Greenway Trail
This route can become a key north-south commuter route, paralleling dense residential areas and offering some of the city's most dramatic scenery. Planning for Route 9A from Battery Place to 59th Street includes separate bicycle and pedestrian paths; an interim bikeway-walkway is presently being developed by the Hudson River Park Conservancy. The Route 9A segment will ultimately connect with waterside paths through the Riverside South development and the parks extending to the northern tip of Manhattan. With connections to the Bronx and Staten Island, the route will link with the planned Hudson River Valley Greenway from Westchester to Albany. It would also be part of the East Coast Greenway linking cities along the coast.

East River Esplanade
Like the Hudson River corridor, this route has strong potential for a high level of commuter and recreational use. It has wonderful scenic views and could be an alternate leg of the East Coast Greenway. Portions have existed for half a century at East River and Carl Schurz parks, and most of the esplanade between 63rd and 125th streets was built or rebuilt in the 1980s, funded by new development projects on the east side of Manhattan. Completion of the sections south of 63rd street are a priority. Planning and design is under way for Harlem Beach which will contain bicycle and pedestrian paths along the Harlem River from 125th to 145th streets. At Macombs Dam Bridge, users would cross to the proposed Harlem River path in the Bronx to continue northward.

Staten Island Railroad Trail
A key segment of the East Coast Greenway, the trail could extend from the St. George Ferry Terminal (and the Staten Island Rapid Transit line which runs south to Tottenville) to the pedestrian path on the Goethals Bridge to New Jersey, with a spur to Travis. The city is currently seeking to acquire the line for freight and/or commuter use. The NYCTCC has given preliminary approval to ISTEA funds for a design investigation of interim trail use of the line and a trail with rail, if rail use is restored. The outstanding features of this route are its marvelous vistas of New York Harbor and the Lower Manhattan skyline, and its proximity to the working waterfront along the Arthur Kill, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, and the Harbor Herons wetlands containing significant coastal fish and wildlife habitats.

Putnam Railroad Trail
This abandoned rail line in the northwest Bronx would connect to a system in place or under construction in Westchester and might also link south to Manhattan across the Harlem River, providing the best north-south cycle route in the Bronx. Subway connections could make it a good intermodal route, potentially attracting people who now drive to Manhattan or to Westchester.

Mosholu-Pelham Greenway (North Bronx Bikeway)
This established greenway runs east-west through the middle of the Bronx; it originated in the late 1930s and was reconstructed in the 1970s as a bike-to-transit route with signage and bike lock-ups at rail stations. The route links Pelham Bay Park and Orchard Beach on the east with Van Cortland Park on the west, with access to Bronx Park, the Bronx Zoo and Botanic Garden, and many institutions, subway and Metro North stations along the way. The route has considerable intermodal potential.

Hutchinson River Parkway Trail (Northern Section)

A deteriorated bikepath runs along the length of the Hutchinson Parkway from the Whitestone Bridge to the county line. Its continuity is interrupted in several places by new exit ramps or overpasses. The section north of Pelham Parkway could become the chief link with the East Coast Greenway north of the city if Connecticut establishes a pathway along the Merritt Parkway corridor.

Shore Parkway Bikeway and Rockaway-Gateway Greenway
The Shore Parkway is presently the city's best traffic-free multi-use path. The Bay Ridge section is in relatively good condition and heavily used, but a gap from Bay Parkway to Knapp Street needs to be closed. State and city funds are programmed to upgrade the area extending east to Cross Bay Boulevard. It could then connect with the Rockaway-Gateway Greenway, which even in its current deteriorated and interrupted state gets fairly heavy use because it accesses the Rockaway beaches, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, and Floyd Bennett Field. The National Park Service and the Friends of Gateway will collaborate on a preliminary plan for the Rockaway route.

Brooklyn-Queens Greenway
The Brooklyn-Queens Greenway proposed in the eighties would link Eastern and Ocean parkways with parks in Brooklyn and Queens. Much of the route exists but several gaps make passage very difficult between Brooklyn and Queens. The route passes a myriad of cultural institutions, including the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Shea Stadium and many of the city's finest parks. A Sunset Park connector would lead to the Shore Parkway route, and a spur through Red Hook would lead to the redeveloping Brooklyn piers and the Brooklyn Bridge. Trail blazing signage for the Greenway has been funded by the respective Borough Presidents' offices.

Queens East River Greenway
The planned Queens West mixed use development in Hunters Point, other development projects and extensive public parkland will make it possible to have a continuous pathway along this waterfront corridor. Offering tourist potential, the route could connect to Manhattan via the East River bridges and the Roosevelt Island Tram.

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge/North and South Shore Greenways

Although a footpath was part of the original bridge design, it was never built when the bridge opened and ferry service ended in the early 1960s. If feasible, a Verrazano-Narrows Bridge pedestrian/bike path would provide a connection between recreation and work destinations in Brooklyn and Staten Island. The city has requested ISTEA funding to assess the feasibility and costs of establishing a dual bike-pedestrian path on the bridge. Upgrading and completing the Staten Island North Shore esplanade and the South Shore bicycle route would increase travel options for bridge users.

The Reality
The Greenway Map shows the current status of the greenway system in each borough -- the sections that are in good or useable condition, those that need substantial improvement, and those proposed for development.

Seventeen percent (59 miles) of the 350-mile proposed system of greenways already exists in good or useable condition. This includes such well used routes as bike and jogging lanes along the Central Park and Prospect Park drives, the Shore Parkway in Bay Ridge, the Brooklyn and Queensboro bridges, the East River esplanade, Battery Park City, Flushing Meadow Park, the Cross Island Parkway, and the North Bronx Bikeway (Mosholu/Pelham Greenway), as well as the Staten Island Ferry crossing.

Another 31 percent (106 miles) are public pathways in need of substantial improvement. This includes the extensive bikeways that once existed along the city's parkways like the Hutchinson Parkway, but which have deteriorated over the years; bridge pathways including those on the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges; and park paths like parts of the Riverside Park system. Some sections are marginally useable, such as portions of the Shore Parkway bikepath east of Knapp Street, while others are entirely impassable.

About half the system, 52 percent or 183 miles, is in the proposal stage. Some of the proposed routes are already programmed for development, such as the path to be built as part of Route 9A in Manhattan. Some are clearly delineated corridors such as the Putnam rail line in the Bronx. Others are important missing links in the system, such as the South Shore Greenway in Staten Island. These schematic routes will require further study to determine their feasibility and precise location, and may require extensive on-street segments.

Both the existing and proposed greenway routes take advantage of a variety of spaces:
  • Green areas along parkways and highways: The remnants of miles of bikeways, created during the 1930s, still exist along the city's green parkways. Some are in use and many can be restored easily. In some areas, however, road widenings and new overpasses or exit ramps present problems. Newer interstate highways like the South Shore Expressway in Staten Island also offer potential corridors for multi-use paths.

  • Abandoned rail corridors present a special opportunity for trail use. In the Bronx, the Putnam rail line has been proposed for acquisition and trail development, and the North Shore line in Staten Island is a candidate for trail use in conjunction with reactivated rail use.

  • Waterfront public access areas are yet another excellent greenway opportunity. Much of the city's 578-mile waterfront is already publicly-accessible and more is likely to become so as a result of the new waterfront zoning regulations. The Hudson River corridor in Manhattan and the Queens East River waterfront are examples of the potential for creating continuous linear access by connecting esplanades in public parks with those in private developments.

  • Most public parkland already serves pedestrians on a complex network of footpaths. However, careful planning is needed to enable bikers and roller bladers to be accommodated without posing a hazard to other users or to the fragile natural landscape. The master plan for the Staten Island Greenbelt, for example, proposes a bikeway adjacent to the road system in order to avoid intruding on the park's natural environment.

  • Bridges and ferries should allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the waterways that divide the city. Most of the city's older bridges incorporate pedestrian walkways (some in poor condition), but several of the more recently built bridges do not, notably the Verrazano, Whitestone, and Throgs Neck bridges. The Staten Island Ferry is one of the city's most important greenway elements, transporting over 75,000 cyclists a year. As the city's ferry system grows, so will the bikeway network.

  • Some city streets will also be part of the greenway system, since they are the only means of connection in some areas. Initially, cyclists will rely heavily on street connections; even in the long run, 20 percent of the system will be on streets and sidewalks.

The Department of City Planning is grateful for the invaluable contributions made by members of the Metro New York Bikeway-Walkway Working Group, established in February 1992 by the New York State Department of Transportation. Special recognition is extended to Ivan Vamos, Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, who served as committee chairman until June 1993. The planning framework presented in this report emerged from months of work by committee members representing the following agencies and organizations. The Greenway Plan was published in 1993.
  • Bicycle Transportation Action NYC Department of Transportation
  • Bronx Borough President's Office NYC Economic Development Corporation
  • Brooklyn Borough President's Office New York Metropolitan Transportation Council
  • Federal Transit Agency New York-New Jersey Trails Conference
  • Hudson River Valley Greenway Heritage Conservancy NYS Department of Transportation
  • Manhattan Borough President's Office NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Parks Council
  • Metropolitan Greenways Council Public Space for Public Life
  • National Park Service Queens Borough President's Office
  • Neighborhood Open Space Coalition Riverside Park Fund
  • NYC Department of City Planning Staten Island Borough President's Office
  • NYC Department of Environmental Protection Transportation Alternatives
  • NYC Department of Parks and Recreation Trust for Public Land


Richard L. Schaffer, Director
Sandy Hornick, Deputy Executive Director, Strategic Planning
Barbara Weisberg, Assistant Executive Director, Planning Coordination

Wilbur Woods, Director, Waterfront and Open Space Division
Karen Votava, Project Director
Sheila Metcalf, Map Production
James McConnell, Map Consultant
Debra Grumet, Adrienne Taub, Interns

Floyd Lapp, Director, Transportation Division
Ismail Khan, Transportation Planner

Thomas Angotti, Brooklyn Office
Ray Curran, Bronx Office
Lucy Baxter, Word Processor
Eustace Pilgrim, Cover Design
Antonio Mendez, Deputy Director of Operations

Hardcopies of the master plan are available in City Planning's bookstore.

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