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Ward's Island pedestrian footbridge set to re-open

May 21, 2012 4:22:45 AM PDT
After a nearly two-year construction project, the Ward's Island pedestrian footbridge is about to re-open, linking East Harlem to the island. For the first time in 30 years, the bridge will be open 365 days a year.

The footbridge is a lifeline for East Harlem, Yorkville and the Upper East Side. With the beautiful renovation of Ward's Island Park, there are plenty of reasons to cross it.

DOT workers are putting the finishing touches on the bridge, which spans the Harlem River.

A new railing has been added, plus improved lighting and an all-important NYPD security camera to monitor the comings and goings on the bridge. In years past, this area used to be a real trouble spot.

"Security has been an issue for a long time," said Geoffrey Croft, of NYC Parks Advocates. "First of all, you have a lot of homeless shelters on the island itself, and there were problems. There was violence. There was drugs being moved across the bridge. And now, with the cameras, it'll make a huge difference."

While the bridge has been undergoing a $16 million facelift, Ward's Island Park itself was being transformed. No longer a hangout for the homeless, it is lush and green and alive with activity. The fields are filled with kids playing sports. Runners are chomping at the bit to make use of the extra space.

"There's Icahn stadium, there's Randall's Island," runner John Huntercamp said. "It's an alternative to running in Central park every day. I like to mix it up, so I hope it's open soon."

But longtime residents are still wary about the bridge being open at night, and hope that the changes will be enough.

"They still have like the mental hospital that's supposed to be across the way over there," East Harlem resident Johnny Beltrane said. "And I know sometimes, late at night, there's people that do come across the bridge. And some of us still worry about the fact that, you know, cause we have kids, that they be around the area."

The bridge is tentatively set to open June 1.

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