CB8 puts brakes on merchant traffic plan

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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. 

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