History of the Greenway Plan
In 1866, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux conceived of a network of wide, tree-lined avenues that would cut across the grid of Brooklyn and link its open spaces. Modeled after the Avenue de L’Impératrice (now the Avenue Foch) in Paris, Olmsted and Vaux’s new roads differed from their French predecessors in that they stretched for several miles. They were intended to provide sumptuous green corridors along which citizens could live and take pleasure drives. Two of them were built along Olmsted and Vaux’s newly designed Prospect Park: Eastern Parkway, running from Prospect Park to Crown Heights, and Ocean Parkway, connecting Prospect Park to Coney Island.
Today, recreational spaces across all five boroughs are connected through a system of greenways that are used for transportation and recreation. The 1993 Department of City Planning “Greenway Plan for New York City” outlined 350 miles of connective Greenways that would form a citywide network. The greenways run on new paths as well as old paths. Robert Moses constructed the old trails during his time as Commissioner of Parks (1934 - 1960). Sections of the many greenways in development and construction are a part of the New York City Bicycle Network.
The New York City Bicycle Network is a larger citywide effort to generate a citywide greenway system. Network members include the City of New York/Parks & Recreation, the Department City Planning, and the Department of Transportation. In 1997, the City of New York, Department of City Planning and Department of Transportation put together a New York City Bicycle Master Plan, detailing 550 miles of on-street bicycle lanes. Together with the greenway plan, New York City has a comprehensive planned system of 900 miles of on- and off- street paths. Mayor Bloomberg has recognized the importance of greenways to the city and has helped us develop 30 miles of greenway over the last four years, bringing Parks’ total to well over 100 miles, within the 350 mile greenway network that has been envisioned.
The Hike & Bike program encourages all greenway users to visit parks that are closed to bicycling. Bicyclists can park their bikes at the entrance of restricted-access parks, enjoy the park on-foot, and continue bicycling along greenway trails.
The Intermodal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 established a federal transportation policy that promoted non-motorized modes of transportation such as walking and cycling. This policy was re-emphasized in the 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA–21) and in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETA–LU) authorized in August 2005. Since 1991, millions of dollars of federal transportation funding has been made available to help finance the planning, design, and construction of greenways throughout New York City. Over the next four years Parks will use $133 million in City, State, and Federal Funds to design and construct 41.6 new miles of greenway. An additional $85.6 million will be used to expand greenway destinations and enhancements, such as comfort stations, boat launches, and environmental restoration projects.
For a more detailed report of New York City's urban greenway program, see the Department of City Planning's webpage. For information about specific greenways around New York City, click here. For more history on bicycling in New York City parks, visit our history page.