Traffic delays lasting more than three lights. Extended waits to make a left turn. Cars double-parked. Near-traffic accidents.
For drivers and pedestrians who use the intersection at West 256th Street and Riverdale Avenue, some relief is on the way.
The city’s transportation department will add extra time to the green light signal both northbound and southbound on West 256th, just in front of Robert J. Christen P.S. 81
It’s exactly what Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and other community leaders and residents had hoped for. During a press conference last October, Dinowitz called for the transportation department to install a left-turn green light or a delayed green light. He added that drivers headed east and west would wait a little longer for a red light, allowing drivers heading north and south — which has the heavier traffic — more time to clear the intersection.
“I’m hoping that this solves the problem,” Dinowitz said. “We won’t know the full results until the ConEd work is done, and that is expected to take several more weeks.”
Dinowitz joined a number of local leaders like Community Board 8’s incoming district manager Michael Heller, as wlel as representatives from Councilman Andrew Cohen’s and state Sen. Jeffrey Klein walking through the area April 19.
Although transportation officials didn’t give him any details, Dinowitz expected the delayed green light to start sometime this week. A transportation department spokeswoman offered no additional details about the light when reached by The Press last week.
Barbara Connolly, president of the Riverdale Gardens Tenants Association, welcomed the “good news,” but said she’d believe it when she saw it. Connolly and her husband were driving along West 256th when she saw Dinowitz with the group. The transportation officials were there just in time to see traffic at its worst there.
“School was getting out,” Connolly said. “The traffic was horrendous. Cars were double-parked on the street. ConEd was working.”
Residents have been waiting more than two years for the transportation department to make changes in the area. The intersection becomes so congested, Connolly said she avoids making left turns there.
“Every time I try to make that turn, I have to go down to 254th Street, go along behind the baseball field, (and) turn off 256th Street just to get across that street. I will not turn on Riverdale Avenue. You can’t get across.”
Last October, P.S. 81 parent Paul Angelini called the area a “dangerous intersection.” Betty Chughtai, who lives on Riverdale Avenue, said it would sometimes take her up to 15 minutes to back out of her driveway in the 9 a.m. hour because of the heavy traffic.
P.S. 81’s principal, Anne Kirrane, also asked for a left turn signal, telling the CB8’s transportation committee in 2014 students were in danger crossing streets in the area. In fact, by then, two students from the school — which serves kindergarten through fifth grade — had been struck by cars.
Even traffic itself said something needed to be done. The same day as the press conference last year, an accident was narrowly avoided as a car made a left turn onto Riverdale Avenue heading north and nearly slammed into another vehicle.
Many drivers ignore traffic laws at the intersection, Connolly said.
“Hopefully with the delayed green, they will stop,” she said. “This would be great because this is what we want.”