Sidewalks just might pave way for safety

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Some say good fences make good neighbors. But in certain cases, they cause problems.

There’s a cinder block wall and a row of dumpsters at West 255th Street and Netherland Avenue, creating a barrier for people wanting to walk north or south. It’s no small nuisance to those in a rush, and an eyesore at that.

But some North Riverdale residents and business owners say building a sidewalk could provide a solution.

Community Board 8’s traffic and transportation committee will discuss extending the walkway on the stretch of Netherland connecting West 256th and West 254th streets Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m., at The Riverdale Y. 

The suggestion is part of the North Riverdale Merchant and Business Association’s streetscape report from last July addressing a part of Netherland that passes through two co-ops just west of Riverdale Avenue. 

The inspiration behind the streetscape report — which shares more than a dozen ideas beyond a Netherland sidewalk — is the city transportation department’s new Vision Zero program, said Christopher Rizzo, the merchants association’s pro-bono lawyer. That safe-street program has reportedly reduced pedestrian fatalities to their lowest rates in 2017 since records were kept.

But almost no Vision Zero improvements have made their way to Riverdale, Rizzo said, and the merchants association report is designed to change that, identifying various improvements DOT should study further, like sidewalks on West 254th, and between Independence Avenue and West 261st Street. 

Overall, pedestrian conditions on the community’s main streets are poor and unsafe — bad for residents and businesses alike, Rizzo said. And while his group is pushing for the improvements, the ultimate decision to move forward lies with the transportation department, in consultation with CB8.

Thursday’s meeting agenda refers to the merchants association “proposal,” but the group has no applications or proposals pending before the committee, Rizzo said. The clarification is important, he added, because the association has no plans to make a presentation at the meeting. 

Touted as a comprehensive set of ideas for revitalizing Riverdale and Mosholu avenues, one of the report’s goals was beautification of the area between West 254th and the Yonkers city line, said Steven Chait, president of the Skyview Owners Corp. Co-op board at Skyview-on-the-Hudson. But the merchants association also aimed at tackling quality-of-life issues, like “connectivity” — ways to make streets look and function better in North Riverdale.

To that end, the merchants association consulted with residents in the area, home to places like Netherland Gardens, Riverdale Gardens, Riverdale Park Apartments and even Arlington Avenue’s Skyview, Chait said. That represents some 5,000 people — the largest population bloc in North Riverdale.

“In meeting with (Rizzo and the merchants association), we were talking about things that could benefit the community on the hill, so to speak,” Chait said. “Basically, we’re seeking to make a pedestrian walk-through area on Netherland Avenue.”

 

No cars, no walkers

As it stands, the cinderblock wall blocks access to West 254th, Chait said — for both cars and people.

“Our interest is pedestrian only,” Chait said. “We’re not interested in opening it up for cars or trucks or anything like that. But we’re looking to make an easy-access point for people who live up the hill on 256th Street, and particularly Skyview, to be able to get to 254th Street directly without having to zigzag down to Riverdale Avenue.”

Given West 254th provides what is essentially the main access route to the Riverdale Metro-North station, creating an easy way for people from “the community on the hill” and elsewhere to get there would be extremely helpful, Chait said. But it also would benefit students attending the Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy on West 254th.

 

Convenience, safety

“It would be an added convenience and sort of a safe pedestrian alternative to more cars, and save people a lot of time and trouble, quite frankly, walking down to Riverdale Avenue,” Chait said, estimating the extra trek adds an additional five to seven minutes to the journey. That’s no small inconvenience, especially considering “when you’re rushing to get to the train, every minute counts.”

Chait hopes the barrier will be broken sooner rather than later.

“If you could knock a hole in that cinderblock wall just wide enough for somebody to get by, people could continue there to 254th, and then make a right and go down the hill to Metro-North,” Chait said.

But carving out an opening wouldn’t just be “a superficial convenience,” he added. Rather, the need speaks to a broader problem in an already difficult-to-navigate part of the Bronx.

“Getting around Riverdale can be a challenge because of all the cul-de-sacs and things, but there are a lot of people who do rely on Metro-North,” Chait said. “It would be nice to not have to have so many cars, congestion, down on Riverdale Avenue.” 

Chait suspects a lot of people would enjoy traversing down that hill on West 254th, especially during warmer months. 

“It’s an easier walk down than going the reverse way,” Chait said. 

“But regardless, in spring, summer and fall, it would be a really welcome and easy access point for a lot of people, and would open up a bottleneck, for sure.”

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