Last October, when the federal government announced that it would expedite a project to build a new bridge or substantially repair the Tappan Zee Bridge, White Plains City Councilwoman Milagros Lecuona had a stroke of inspiration. An urban planner with an architectural background, she quickly sketched a rendering of the bridge as a pedestrian walkway, similar to New York City’s High Line. When learning that Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner had suggested something similar, Lecuona called him and the two joined forces to create a Tappan Bridge Park alliance. On November 16, the pair, as co-chairs of the alliance, held their first public meeting in Greenburgh to discuss turning the bridge into a pedestrian park.
The Tappan Zee opened in 1955 and was designed to accommodate 100,000 vehicles per day; the current average is around 140,000. A new bridge is scheduled to be completed by 2017. So why not take the old one and create a scenic walking and biking park across its three-mile expanse? It would cost less than demolishing the bridge—which, by Feiner’s estimation, would cost “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
“I think the Tappan Bridge Park could be a world-famous tourist attraction,” says Fred Schaeffer, a Poughkeepsie attorney behind the creation of the Walkway Over the Hudson, a well-used, 1.2 mile-long pedestrian/cyclist bridge connecting Poughkeepsie and Highland, New York. (The cost to create the Walkway Over the Hudson was $38 million, as opposed to $54 million for demolition.) If that project is any indication, a park on the old Tappan Zee could prove a real success.