It may not be the most frequently used path in the neighborhood, but it’s still important to dog owners like Steve Adragna and other Spuyten Duyvil residents looking for respite from the bustle of city life.
A series of lights along a trail cutting through Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park — connecting the parking area next to the Metro-North station and the southeast edge of the park around 2263 Edsall Ave. — have been broken for at least two years, according to Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. And despite multiple complaints to the 311 helpline, the city’s transportation department has yet to fix them.
The path is used by a number of people, including “commuters who want to briefly escape from the hubbub of city life and local residents who enjoy walking among trees more than walking among cars,” Dinowitz wrote in an April 5 letter to transportation borough commissioner Nivardo Lopez. “Unfortunately, with inadequate lighting, after nightfall, this park does not feel like the urban oasis it should be.”
But what’s needed at the trail is more than simply replacing a few bulbs, DOT spokeswoman Lolita Avila said. The entire electrical infrastructure may need to be replaced, something the transportation department will have to work with parks to complete.
When all that would happen, and how much it would cost, is something Avila couldn’t say.
Broken lights aren’t the park’s only issue. There’s also a fenced-off work site under the Henry Hudson Bridge, with a sign announcing that part of the path will be closed through 2020.
As Adragna recalls, the lights kicked out around the time Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, toppling trees and power lines in the area. But back then, fixing a few lights likely wasn’t the highest priority.
“It seemed kind of dumb to complain about it during superstorm Sandy, when you realize the devastation of a lot of different areas,” Adragna said. “I mean, I’m going to call someone and say, ‘Oh, the park lights are out.’ There was a lot going on. But I think we’re well away from the Sandy damage, so I think it could be back on the list.”
But the problem truly hit home for Adragna when he caught part of an episode of the television show “Gotham” being filmed in the park.
“It was a spooky crime scene that they were searching for a missing weapon, and if you see the episode, you can see how dark and creepy it is, and why they chose it,” Adragna said. “So I said, ‘You know what? This is a pretty dangerous place at night.’ It has lights. All the other parks have lights. It’s not like we’re asking them to establish something that’s not there already.”
Adragna started a petition about a month ago to get the lights turned back on, soliciting signatures from neighbors in his building at 2465 Palisade Ave. More than 40 people have signed on.
But the city is slow to respond — an example of “ineffective bureaucracy,” said Frederic Klein, the community liaison in Dinowitz’s office — and the lights remain out.
“People get turned off to government when they see things like this,” Klein said. “It gives credence to the argument we can’t do anything, and that’s not true.”
Tracy Shuler, who’s worked as a doorman at 2465 Palisade Ave., for close to a decade, said that while he’s never actually traversed the path, he hears residents complain regularly about the lights not working.
Shuler also noted the ramshackle state of trees and bushes across the street from his building suggest a general neglect of the area.
“At least fix it up,” he said.
It’s like a world apart, this nook of Spuyten Duyvil with quaint, stately homes, perched on sloping ground overlooking the Hudson River.
Of the six lights — streetlamp-like structures connected to wooden poles — a trip to the park April 26 revealed some were in worse shape than others, ensnared in gnarled branches, wires exposed.
On the ground, no trace of human footprints, just deep grooves of tractor tracks in the mud. And other than the birds, the path appeared to be empty, a kind of unkept oasis of broken branches and fallen trees.
“It’s just very unspoiled and natural,” Adragna said. “Even though it’s near the train station, it seems quiet. You really feel like you’re away from it all.
“It’s kind of a shame because it’s a great park, and by not having lights, I think less people are able to use it, and it’s just sad that the city can’t fix what seems like something that’s easily fixable.”