September 19, 2014

The Totally Serious Plan to Connect Brooklyn and Manhattan by Gondola

If an imaginative real estate executive gets his way, New Yorkers soon will have a new way of crossing the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Instead of slogging across a traffic-snarled bridge or cramming into a packed subway car, they’d soar over the river in … a gondola.

Dan Levy, head of CityRealty, is totally serious about this. He came up with the idea for the East River Skyway a few years ago while skiing. He thought it could work in New York, given that other cities, including Portland, London, and Rio de Janeiro have similar systems.

This week, Levy published a bold plan for an aerial network connecting Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. He figures it could be built for between $75 million and a $100 million, a fraction of what New York’s spent on recent subway expansion projects. The idea has a lot going for it, but if built as Levy envisions, it would be useful to only a small, affluent subset of the city.

Much of the proposed network includes waterfront stations, which wouldn’t be much help to commuters who need to get inland. There’s also the fact those stations could be put to better use. “In practicality, I don’t know why we would connect perfectly good boating docks with gondolas,” says Sarah Kaufman, adjunct assistant professor of planning at New York University and digital manager at the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation. “We should be connecting those areas with boats, water taxis, ferries.”

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