CB8 puts brakes on merchant traffic plan

Posted

Think Riverdale Avenue needs to go on a “road diet”?

Community Board 8’s traffic and transportation committee doesn’t think so.

The group is urging the city’s transportation department not to conduct a traffic study requested by the North Riverdale Merchant and Business Association that could turn a stretch of Riverdale Avenue between West 254th and West 261st streets from two lanes in each direction to just one.

The idea met with minimal support, not just from committee members, but also others who regularly use the busy street.

“One lane cannot accommodate east and west side express buses, two lines of city buses, Rail Link buses, garbage trucks, vans, cabs, delivery trucks and cars with residents trying to get to work, school (and) church,” said Barbara Connolly, president of the Riverdale Gardens Tenants Association, located just off the commercial strip on Netherland Avenue where some 400 residents live.

Gary Wartels, the president of the merchant association that proposed the idea, wasn’t in attendance at the meeting last week, and refused requests for comment.

The idea stemmed from a portion of the controversial merchant association plan, “Study a Road Diet on Riverdale Avenue,” which would have asked the city’s transportation department to take a close look at both the north- and southbound lanes on Riverdale Avenue.

The hope was to reduce the two lanes going north and south to one with a center turn lane.

Another resident, Lisa Daub, said the plan doesn’t take into account the people who live nearby who’d be impacted by the plan. Plus, reducing the number of lanes will make it more difficult to connect with mass transit.

“We live way past the subway and we rely on buses to get to the subway and to work,” she said.

“I really believe just a single lane of traffic will slow down bus service even more.”

“This is a formula for disaster,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said. With schools in the vicinity like P.S. 81 Robert Christen and St. Margaret of Cortona at or near Riverdale Avenue, the area becomes even more congested because of school arrivals and dismissals. There is double and sometimes triple parking on Riverdale Avenue.

“Traffic at that time will be at a standstill, especially at that time of day if this … ever happens,” Dinowitz said.

The assemblyman and state Sen. Jeffrey Klein submitted a joint letter asking the merchant association’s plan doesn’t move forward. That request is being heeded after DOT spokeswoman Lolita Avila told The Riverdale Press there were “no plans to conduct a traffic study” to consider narrowing Riverdale Avenue.

The vote by the transportation committee isn’t the last stop, however. The resolution still has to go before the full CB8, which meets again Dec. 12. If the entire board agrees, then the resolution asking that the merchant association request not be considered will be forwarded to DOT.

Not all the merchant association’s plan was rejected, however. Some residents attending last week’s meeting supported suggestions like beautifying the area with plantings and benches. However, reducing the lanes along Riverdale Avenue was the major sticking point for many.

“There is no way traffic will run smoothly in each direction with one lane,” Daub said. “It will create noise pollution, air pollution and a lot of irate drivers.”

CORRECTION: Lisa Daub was one of the residents speaking out against some of the proposed changes offered by the North Riverdale Merchant Association for Riverdale Avenue. A different last name was included in a Dec. 7. story. 

Comments

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weegmc

Why not endorse a traffic study? Small minded Riverdale politicians rule the day again. No ideas, no solutions.

Friday, December 8, 2017
TruthTeller

Normally I'm diamterically opposed to anything coming out of the establisment corporate neoliberal wall street democrat club member Dinowitz, but here I support him 100 percent.

The only people who could possibly think this is a good idea are new transplants into the community that want to turn Riverdale into their little slice of Wisconsin.

Having grown up on Riverdale ave by 238th street, I saw Riverdale ave go from almost a sleepy country lane in the 70's to a virtual superhighway nowadays. And it ain't going back. This is unfortunate and also a reality.

No one should be petitioning the DOT for any "help." They have so collosally ruined so many of the intersections they recently "improved" that it boggles the mind. Kappock Street has become a deathtrap after their "improvement" and repeated calls for them to address it go unanswered.

I have it on good authority that the DOT is bascailly being taken over by car haters and pedestrian lovers, so the emphasis in their design is to de-emphasize car traffic and try to eliminate it as much as possible. What the possible reasons for this are unknown? Perhaps it's some weird social engineering scheme? But in either case, there should be a new department to deal with all the hassles and additional traffic being created by the DOT in their quest to turn NYC into a european car-free zone.

Saturday, December 9, 2017
Chris Rizzo

As a member of the business association and its pro-bono attorney, I need to correct some mistakes in Ms. Herndon's article. First, the business association's Riverdale Streetscape Report is available at www.riverdalebronx.nyc and has been subject to wide public comment for two years. Its high time the Riverdale Press did some serious reporting on the ideas in the report. It includes a detailed study on traffic safety and beautification for Riverdale and Mosholu Avenues prepared by licensed engineers. There are dozens of specific ideas for both safety and beauty to improve business, quality of life and safety on these two main street's in zip code 10471. Included as an exhibit is a list of dozens of people and institutions that support the report.

Second, the community board's vote on the report has little meaning for anyone except the board. Chairperson Ginty asked the association to make a courtesy presentation of the report in October to the traffic committee. I did so on its behalf, collecting comments from about six committee members and a dozen public speakers. The association did not ask for the community board's vote because their is nothing to vote on--this is a report of great ideas and the board will issue its customary advisory vote when the NYC DOT comes forward with a specific proposal for traffic safety. Subsequent to that meeting the committee and board scheduled votes on a resolution without informing me or the association that it would be taking further action. That appears to be purposeful to ensure that neither I nor the dozens of others actively supporting change were present. Did the board have serious conversations with Skyview, SAR, P.S. 81 parents, Mount Saint Vincent or FPOA? Did the board engage engineers to consider ideas and solutions to traffic problems? I am informed they did not. Regardless, as an advisory board taking a vote on an nonexistent application, the vote is a symbolic gesture to appease the small but loud anti-change contingent on the board (i.e., the ones that led the unsuccessful fights against the DOT's Broadway improvements, the Putnam Greenway, the Mayor's affordable housing zoning changes, etc.)

Third, the DOT will study the ideas in the report and come back to the community and community board with its own ideas for traffic, safety and parking safety. The agency is legally bound to act and study because it is charged by the mayor with advancing the Vision Zero program to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries. Riverdale and Mosholu Avenue are not just unsightly they are statistically unsafe. Whether the DOT studies a road diet (one of about 30 ideas in the report) is completely up to the DOT. But something must be done to meet the City's legal obligation to keep thousands of residents, school children and shoppers safe. In the process the DOT also has a change to improve traffic flow and quality of life. New pedestrian crossings, welcome signage, pathways, sidewalks and designated parking areas are just a few of the ideas that might make a difference.

As for State Assemblyman Dinowitz and State Senator Klein's opposition to further study by a City agency charged with Vision Zero traffic safety--I only wish they had reached out to the association and me for a serious meeting about ideas.

While DOT decides how to act, the Association will continue to work on the thing that is within our control--beautification. Although I speak only for myself, I know the Association is committed to its members, residents, schools and property owners to succeed.

Best,

Chris Rizzo

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Michael Hinman

Mr. Rizzo:

Thanks for your comment, and as we discussed in email:

• You have noticed "mistakes" in the story, but have not actually pointed out any errors made by the reporter. If there are specific factual errors in the story, please email me at mhinman@riverdalepress.com right away so that we can address them appropriately.

• Ms. Herndon was simply covering a CB8 committee meeting where this plan was being discussed. She reported on the various comments about the plan, while sharing details of the plan — based on what NRMA has listed.

• Ms. Herndon also went beyond the meeting to give NRMA a chance to share their thoughts and to respond. Gary Wartels, the NRMA president, declined to respond. As I explained in our email conversation, we are obligated as reporters to do everything we can to give everyone a fair chance to speak, but we cannot force people to speak. Mr. Wartels' not commenting is absolutely his right — but that does make it difficult after the story is published to decry the reporter not including information you felt should be there, when that information was not available to her.

• We are simply covering a story, we do not decide what CB8 votes on and what they don't. But I can tell you from my own personal experience as a longtime government reporter that bodies like CB8 don't need to seek consent for a vote. They can vote when and how they want, whether you or I or anyone wants them to or not.

• As the committee meeting was open to the public, I do not see how CB8 prevented anyone from your group from attending. If they did (outside of your belief that there would be no vote), please let me know, because that could very well indeed be a follow-up story.

• The story does not dispute who has final say over such changes — it's made quite clear that this is ultimately DOT's decision. However, DOT typically seeks out feedback from those affected, including the community board.

Once again, if you have specific errors you would like to have us address from the story, please reach out to me directly.

Thanks again!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
KateBB

I would urge any and every resident of 10471 to read the excellent Streetscape Report referred to by Chris Rizzo (direct link: http://www.riverdalebronx.nyc/docs/streetscapereport.pdf). And hey, Riverdale Press, why don't you report on these exciting ideas as Mr. Rizzo suggests?

Kudos to the authors of the report and the dedicated idea people who have come up with multiple plans to improve the safety, and the beauty, of North Riverdale.

| Tuesday, December 12, 2017
John Nimby

This is the only traffic plan worth considering for Northern Riverdale:

In the days when the area was known as SHORAKAPOK or sitting place, there were no stop lights, stop signs, cross walks, or bus stops. We should protect and preserve our green environment.

Rip out all stop signs, stop lights, cross walks, and bus stops on Riverdale Ave between West Two-Hundred-Fifty-Second Street and the border with the County of West Chester. Reduce the width of the sidewalks to fit three lanes of both north and south bound traffic.

Build a multilevel parking garage in the southern half of the Skyview lots. Build free multi level municipal garages on the empty lands at Vinmont Park and Mount Saint Michael college grounds.

Science has shown that nothing makes shoppers happier than fast moving traffic and plenty of free parking.

All problems solved. You're welcome, merchants and people of Northern Riverdale!

| Thursday, December 14, 2017
DMcShane

Riverdale avenue running adjacent to the HH Parkway from 239 street to W 254 St is a one lane road. A very wide one lane road for sure but still one lane. Due to its width it easily accommodates all the bus traffic, parked cars and multiple on ramps from the highway. Once you hit W254 St however, you have about five blocks of snarled traffic. Double parking and multiple lights are the likely causes for the problems, whats the solution?

Having a wider single lane, a wider parking lane, a marked turn lane at the the three traffic lights along the stretch would seem to be a reasonable plan to address the congestion. A traffic study would go a long way in proving that true or finding another solution to a problem that is not going away. Perhaps it would address the growing local side street traffic as well. Again, the problem is not going away, its actually getting worse and no one else is offering any potential solution - certainly not any elected officials.

As for coverage in our local paper, its been lacking. There have been half a dozen public meetings on the issue going back two years and this is the first article of any note thats been published. The CB8 discussion at St Margaret only a month or two ago, with a dozen speakers and a full presentation by NRMA of the plan, wasn't noted at all in the paper. Not having a quote from any NRMA member, the plans sponsors, or any local supporters in this report only tells half a story. Perhaps there are no mistakes but certainly there are omissions.

Thursday, December 14, 2017
Riverdale Resident

The community will boycott any business that is part of the Merchants Association if this traffic plan goes forward.

Thursday, December 14, 2017
Michael Hinman

To DMcShane:

Thanks for the comment!

However, there has not been much to report on this before there was community discussion and a vote. We had covered the plan extensively prior to this, and without much movement, there is not much to report, so we spent time on other things also newsworthy in the community.

Here is some of the coverage we have done on this project:

• Plan to remodel Riverdale draws praise, protests — http://riverdalepress.com/stories/plan-to-remodel-riverdale-draws-praise-protests,61300?

• Plan to cut road lanes scrapped — http://riverdalepress.com/stories/plan-to-cut-road-lanes-scrapped,61352?

As far as I'm aware, at least since I've arrived in March, the only times that this has returned to the public spotlight was during a presentation to a CB8 committee in October, and the committee meeting that prompted this story in November.

Also, as the story notes, Gary Wartels was given an opportunity to respond outside of the meeting, and did not return the call.

We do not have a huge staff, and we cannot attend every committee meeting. We do our best to get to as many as possible, but we cannot be at all of them.

This was a clearly indicated topic of discussion on the November agenda. Those who were promoting the plan had every opportunity to attend that meeting and be heard.

Thursday, December 14, 2017
DMcShane

Thanks for the response Mike (no sarcasm). Traffic in NR is a big problem, the NRMA have done a good job proactively seeking a solution. I hope you try to cover their meetings and more importantly advocate for solutions and open your opinion page to advocates.

Friday, December 15, 2017
Michael Hinman

The opinion page already is open to everyone. Why would that be different?

Sunday, December 17, 2017