For years, the East River Gondola has been nothing more than a glassy conceptual $100 million pie in the sky. But now, with the L Train halting service between Brooklyn and Manhattan for 18 months beginning in 2019, a suspended cable car system connecting Williamsburg to Delancey Street is getting real support from three local lawmakers.
In a joint letter to Mayor de Blasio sent on November 3rd, Brooklyn Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and City Council Member Stephen Levin all praised the East River Skyway as not only a means of solving commuter woes during the L train shutdown, but fortifying the city's transit system as both population and ocean levels rise.
Their vision for the Skyway is a high-speed gondola able to transport 5,000 people per hour in each direction, meaning that over 100,000 people per day would be able to catch rides up and over the river. Average travel time would be six minutes. With over 225,000 people taking the L train each day, it's not a total solution, but it's a start.
“As the population in North Brooklyn continues to explode, we need to explore all transit options to ensure people are able to efficiently travel. The East River Skyway is an innovative and hip mode of transportation that embodies the forward thinking population of North Brooklyn,” Assemblyman Lentol wrote in the letter, adding that the Skyway will have an added bonus of zero on-site emissions.
“The proposed L Train shut down has underscored the importance of having redundant transit service to North Brooklyn—and we should be exploring all options, including the concept of an East River Skyway,” Maloney added.
The innovative-as-hell/hip-as-fuck gondola plan was first put forward by CityRealty president Dan Levy, who ultimately hopes to see a complex system of gondolas connecting to South Brooklyn, the Navy Yard, Greenpoint, Long Island City, Midtown East, and the South Street Seaport, mimicking much of the East River Ferry route except in the sky. Lentol, Maloney, and Levin all stressed that "predominantly private funding" could be secured in order to build the first in-lieu-of-the-L gondola.
Levy claims his proposed gondola could be built in as little as 18 months, with a monthly unlimited pass costing $25.
Earlier this year, Gothamist spoke with DOT Deputy Commissioner Sam Schwartz about what it would take to make the East River Gondola a reality. Schwartz assured us the idea is sound, "engineering-wise," and that the major obstacle is land acquisition and "narrow-thinking naysayers."
"We need more capacity across the East River [and] aerial trams should not be discontinued," Schwartz said.
"Since the L train announcement, we’re seeing intensified interest from the public because the East River Skyway is the only proposal currently out there that offers a new solution to the challenges the shutdown will cause," Levy continued. "Traditional solutions like adding buses and ferries and having people use other subway lines are all part of the answer, but they have limitations that call for outside-the-box thinking.”
We've reached out to the de Blasio administration for comment and will update when we hear back.