Float on: Pontoon bridge would pick up closed L train’s slack, model-turned-executive says

Another way over the river: Out-of-state real-estate executive and former model Parker Shinn proposed creating a pontoon bridge across the East River ahead of the April 2019 L-train shutdown, which he claimed would be the best way to shuttle the most straphangers between Brooklyn and the outer borough of Manhattan.
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This idea is full of hot air!

A new temporary pontoon bridge is the best way to shuttle the most straphangers across the East River when officials close the L train’s underwater Brooklyn–Manhattan tunnel for a 15-month repair next April, according to the out-of-state real-estate executive and former underwear model who floated the concept.

San Francisco resident Parker Shinn, who once lived on the distant isle of Manhattan, claimed that plans to launch new ferries as well as beef up bus service across and create dedicated high-occupancy vehicle lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge will not be enough to transport the more than 200,000 displaced daily L-train commuters, necessitating his so-called “L-Ternative” crossing.

“I question whether they’re going to be able to accommodate an additional 225,000 people each day,” Shinn said. “I think this bridge could take all the people that take the L.”

The 31-year-old recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise an initial $50,000 to get his project off the ground, and said he’s already fine-tuned the concept with some professionals.

“We’re exploring it,” he said. “I’ve spoken to a couple of companies to get estimates. I’ve bounced it off naval engineers and architects.”

Shinn proposed installing the Brooklyn end of the short-term bridge — which would be supported by 30 floating 90-foot barges anchored in the river, according to its Kickstarter page — near the coastline around N. Eighth St. in Williamsburg. Straphangers who cross it would arrive in Manhattan near 10th Street.

The span would have four lanes, half Kings County–bound and the other half going towards the distant isle. Pedestrians and cyclists would be permitted on the outer lanes, while the inner two would be reserved for buses in order to keep the bridge from flipping into the East River, Shinn said.

“You have to keep the weight centered,” he said.

A portion of the crossing would be built higher to allow ferries’ and other small boats’ passage, and the span would feature a drawbridge to allow larger vessels through, according to Shinn, who said he has yet to share his plan with the Coast Guard, which would need to approve it, the city, or the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“The first step was try to get this in the public eye,” he said.

The Kickstarter page for Shinn’s bridge notes that some European companies built a similar structure in Africa for $38 million 10 years ago. He said his project on the East River, however, could come with a price tag of at least $100 million, according to a report.

But the cost for the temporary span — which will be disassembled when L-train service resumes — would be covered by a $1 toll, he said, in addition to public financing for its initial stages.

Shinn — who said this journalist was “getting into the weeds” when he asked what other projects the real-estate executive has designed — said he first considered the possibility of a pontoon bridge eight months ago, but started concentrating on it in earnest more recently with the approaching “L-pocolypse.”

“I’ve always loved designing and building things, and New York City is my favorite city in the world,” said Shinn, who once modeled for companies including underwear-maker Me Undies and formalwear retailer Suit Supply. “I was thinking about all the people and businesses that would be affected by the shutdown. I think this bridge absolutely is going to be feasible. My hope is that it would help a lot of people.”

And Shinn isn’t the only person to float unconventional alternative-transportation solutions for straphangers who will soon be booted from the L train. Last year, some transit-minded locals renewed their push to create an aerial gondola connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan called the East River Skyway after the proposal received support from pols including Williamsburg’s Councilman Stephen Levin and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 5:48 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Train rider from Greenpoint says:
Will this work? If so, great idea!
Feb. 28, 2018, 9:11 am
Tyler from pps says:
I think this is a great solution.... The floating bridge is a tried and true method -- both temporary and very permanent versions.
Feb. 28, 2018, 10:51 am
Francine from Williamsburg says:
The trouble isn't getting across the River. The trouble is commute time. Relying on shuttle bus transfers is troublesome.
Feb. 28, 2018, 12:12 pm
James from Bushwick says:
It looks like it will float.
Feb. 28, 2018, 12:15 pm
Julie says:
Too bad the gas station is being turned into yet another building. BWay Lafayette to Metropolitan Lorimer by gondola. The waterfront environmental impact statement should have addressed this eons ago.
Feb. 28, 2018, 12:34 pm
Julie says:
Instead of solving the problem, there will be a demographic shift to accommodate the problem. Some will profit from the shift.
Feb. 28, 2018, 12:40 pm
Juli says:
Not unlike the question, who will profit from the reconstruction of Syria? Probably the people destroying it and jacka5535 such as Shinn with their ill conceived expensive temporary solutions that do not in fact get one from point A to point B.
Feb. 28, 2018, 12:49 pm
J says:
The problem wasn't intended to be solved or they would have solved it.
Feb. 28, 2018, 1:14 pm
Rob from NY says:
We don't need another bridge for $100 million. We just need to repurpose our existing bridges to accommodate more people. This is not an engineering problem, but a political one.
Feb. 28, 2018, 1:43 pm
Lucy from Williamsburg says:
Wouldn’t submarine service be faster? Then you never have to go above the waterline, no wind resistance.
Feb. 28, 2018, 3:56 pm
kevd from Flatbush says:
Yes Lucy from Williamsburg. If there is one thing that creates much less drag than air, it is water.
Thats why jumpers from bridges speed up once they hit the surface!
Feb. 28, 2018, 4:02 pm
AMH says:
A $1 toll on what? The moment you allow cars in the bus lanes this idea fails.

Agree with Rob--this is a political problem as demonstrated by all the selfish griping against any plans to improve efficiency on 14 St and the Williamsburgh Bridge.
Feb. 28, 2018, 4:09 pm
Bill from Queens says:
I agree, why not pursue submarine service?
Feb. 28, 2018, 4:47 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
This idea is insane, and and anyone stupid enough to give this huckster their money deserves to be broke.
Feb. 28, 2018, 5:28 pm
Adam from Bedstuy says:
It won't work. The currents and tides in this estuary are notoriously strong. They will float away and damage something. Badly. But, kudos for thinking outside the box.
Feb. 28, 2018, 7:27 pm
Sid from Boerum hill says:
The capacity of the state n island ferry is 6000. You are replacing the subway no need for a car bridge. 10 trips of the ferry would be 60000. You need capacity for 200000 per day it's a 10 minute ride. 3 ferry would give you a one way rush hour capacity of over 100000. The east river is notorious for tough currents.
Feb. 28, 2018, 8:40 pm
Nancy says:
I'm with Sid on this.
Feb. 28, 2018, 9:13 pm
Oliver from Bushwick says:
I had thought one of the intentions of the Internet was to enable the possibility of decentralization.
March 1, 2018, 12:39 am
Nicole from Bensonhurst says:
Yet another inflated something or other.
March 1, 2018, 6:15 am
Anon from Greenpoint says:
I don't see what Mr. Shinn's modelling career has to do with this. There's probably a way of debating the proposal on its merits, without resorting to ad hominem attacks.
March 1, 2018, 5:28 pm
DanG from Greenwood Heights says:
SI Ferry runs 8 ships to carry 65,000 passengers a day.

The latest order for new ferries cost $300 million for 3 4500-passenger ferries.

Ferries can help, but other modes of transport will have to pitch in.

OTOH, could a pontoon bridge carry detoured BQE traffic so the highway can be repaired?
March 1, 2018, 7:12 pm

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