The treacherous old cobblestone streets of DUMBO and Vinegar Hill have sent many a cyclist salmoning up Front Street to avoid Water Street's painful potholes and wheel-wrenching edges. But relief is on the way, as part of a major $20 million overhaul that will redo some of the most battered streets in the neighborhood, creating a smoother ride for cyclists and a safer path for pedestrians and the precious high-heeled models who flock to DUMBO for photo shoots. Here's a look at the two redesigns the DOT has proposed.


The redesigns were on display this morning by Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6. The one you see above would preserve most of the old cobblestones, adding new ones when necessary, as well as what's described as a "somewhat historically accurate" granite strip for cyclists to bike on without inflaming their hemorrhoids. A century ago these granite strips were used for crosswalks, and they've been brought back at intersections in other parts of the neighborhood, but using them for bike lanes would be a first.


The second option, above, would employ new stones with smoothed edges to replace the battered old cobblestones, which were cut and quarried over a century ago. These granite stones would be the same material, but made smoother for pedestrians, cyclists, and even drivers. I took a spin on this mock-up today, and it was like biking over a baby's bottom.

There has been some objection to the bike lanes from historically-minded Vinegar Hill residents, who started a petition to stop their streets from being "plowed over and homogenized." But the DOT is determined to redo the street surface one way or another, because the infrastructure underneath the cobblestones is long overdue for repair. The project, which is expected to swing into motion in 2014, will replace existing sewer lines and water mains.

The yellow streets are where the surface would be redesigned, the green areas are were significant DEP work needs to be done underneath.

"Some blogs have written, inaccurately, that cobblestones on Water Street will be removed to install a bike path," DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan wrote in an email to DUMBO NYC. "This is false. This is a total street reconstruction project and the cobblestones are being restored as part of the capital upgrade... The section of Water Street in the project area hasn’t been significantly upgraded in more than a century and utilities for the growing number of residences and businesses in the area are overdue for reconstruction. Half of the cobblestones in the project are currently covered by asphalt just to make the street navigable."

It's true; parts of Water Street are an absolute mess and almost impossible to bike on. "As with many other roadway reconstructions across the city, this project also brings an opportunity to improve roadway design to make streets even safer and easier to navigate for all street users and meet ADA requirements—such as installing smooth, walkable crosswalks," Sadik-Khan added.

The DOT is currently seeking public input on the two street surface options, which will be on view at Atlantic Avenue and Furman Street Friday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. A final design package will be presented to the Community Board 2 on July 22 for project approval.

This has been the Gothamist Cobblestone Report for July 11th, 2013. Stay smooth and remember folks: cobble the stone, don't stone the cobbler.