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Yonkers Approves Bike Path Funding Amid Partisan Divide

Yonkers City Council approved partial funding of a bike path Tuesday that would run from Palmer Road to the Bronx.
Yonkers City Council approved partial funding of a bike path Tuesday that would run from Palmer Road to the Bronx. Photo Credit: Matt Bultman

YONKERS, N. Y. – The proposal to connect Yonkers to an East Coast bike trail is rolling along despite a partisan divide among city council members.

Yonkers City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday to approve a $75,000 budget amendment to fund the study and planning of a 1.5-mile path that would connect an existing trail on Palmer Road, near Bronxville, and another in the Bronx.

Together, the path would make up a piece of the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile bike trail that, when completed, will run from Maine to Florida. City Council President Chuck Lesnick, who, along with the council’s three other Democrats voted in favor of the amendment, said he was passionate about seeing the bike lane come to fruition.

“Those who are in favor of this talk about a healthy lifestyle and recreation as a community and how Yonkers is part of a bigger thing,” he said.

But not everyone is supportive of the idea. While the path of the bike lane is still being laid out, Lesnick said it will run through a mix of parkland and Yonkers streets.

Opponents, who include the council’s three Republicans, say they fear this will put bikers at risk and will decrease already scarce parking.

“This is Yonkers. Everyone deals with parking and this is a lifestyle issue,” Council member Mike Breen said.

The connecting bike lane idea started in 2002 when the city combined with Westchester County to secure $1 million in federal grant money to expand the path. At the time, both sides pledged to put up $150,000 to help cover the costs.

Last month, Democrats tried to put the money in the city’s 2012-2013 capital improvement plan but couldn’t secure the five votes needed to do so.

In what Lesnick called a compromise, Democrats proposed setting $75,000 as an amendment to the operating budget, a move that only requires four votes.  A second sum of $75,000 is expected to be earmarked in the 2013-2014 budget.

Been said he found the maneuver to be disconcerting.

“What they couldn’t get one, way they found another way to get it,” he said.

In addition, Breen and Council member Dennis Shepherd, the two men whose district the path would run through, say they were not consulted about the path. Both say neighbors in their district are strongly opposed to the idea, but their concerns were not given weight by the council.

“I thought it’s unfair that my council area and Mr. Breen’s area were not aware of what is going on and the Democratic caucus voted on it without putting it in committee,” Shepherd said.

Lesnick countered the council members were given ample opportunities to weigh in on the issue, both publicly and privately, and he said that will continue to be the case.

“Out of respect, we will indeed take their opinions as to where this trail should go,” he said.

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