Broadway changes are coming, and no, no one can stop it


It's not that your ideas aren't good — they just weren't good enough.

That's the message Bronx transportation department director Nivardo Lopez delivered Tuesday night at Downey's Bar & Grill. And those who live and work around the Broadway business corridor along Van Cortlandt Park resigned themselves to the fact that things were changing, and there was nothing they could do about it.

"We did this in the interest of public safety," Lopez told more than 75 people attending Community Board 8's traffic and transportation committee meeting Tuesday night. 

"I know this project is controversial, but the agency made the decision to move forward."

DOT wants to transform Broadway between the Kingsbridge business district and the Yonkers city line into a stretch of four-lane road that they believe feels more like an actual city through street, instead of an open freeway. That means narrowing travel lanes, shifting parking away from the curbs, adding protected bicycle lanes along the park line, and shortening the current marathon stretch pedestrians need to get from the east and west sides of Broadway.

"The goal of this, remember, is that we are reimagining all travel lanes on Broadway," Lopez said. "Broadway is keeping two lanes southbound and two lanes northbound. We are not removing any travel lanes that exist, but we are shortening the crossings for pedestrians because we can't give them more time to cross."

There are some crosswalks along that stretch which are more than 70 feet long, Lopez said. Once work on Broadway is complete this fall, those crossings will be cut down to about 50 feet.

But if DOT wants to slow traffic down on that stretch of Broadway, one CB8 member questioned why the road had to be torn up, when all that's needed is more traffic lights.

"We asked DOT to initiate a study to analyze the effects of the two new traffic lights on Broadway," said Laura Spalter, referring to the installation of lights designed to make pedestrian crossing safer in those specific stretches of Broadway.

"Thank God we have not heard of any traffic accidents or pedestrian accidents over there, and I knock on wood. But we also ask for additional lights instead of narrowing lanes like this for a protected bike lane.'

But traffic lights aren't designed to slow down traffic, Lopez said. 

"The north part of Broadway from Mosholu Avenue to the county line, all those intersections have traffic lights already," he said. "Traffic lights do not control speeding. When the light is green, people drive faster. There is no mechanism that the traffic light can do to make you go slow."

CB8 chair Rosemary Ginty, standing at the side of the crowded room, took issue with the DOT approach of soliciting input from the community about what needed to be done at Broadway, but then implementing none of those suggestions.

"As chair of this board, I have to say: I am disturbed. I am insulted on behalf of this community," she said. "I have worked in government and with government most of my life. I have never seen anything so dismissive of a community as what DOT did with this plan coming back to us."

The resolution, crafted by traffic and transportation committee chair Dan Padernacht, addressed a number of issues and suggestions brought to the committee by its board members and the public, denouncing the current plans, but offering alternatives it hoped DOT would study, like installing more traffic lights.

Lopez, however, said the reason why it's been months since that resolution passed is because DOT was considering each and every point. But there were some ideas — like angled parking, which would require the removal of a travel lane — that seemed contradictory to the consensus he heard from people against the overall plans at the meetings.

Other ideas could be considered in the future, but the current plan was put in place well aware of all the elements it contained, Lopez added. Each specific plan flowed seamlessly with the thers. And if the plan was cherrypicked and changed, that seamlessness would be gone.

But Ginty was having none of that. 

"When you say, 'If we listened to some of the things, it would be a hodgepodge,' that is adding insult to injury," Ginty said. "You can't say that to a community. You are government. You are part of a democracy, and this is a democracy. You are failing in your part with a democracy."

A little more than two hours after the meeting started, much of the crowd had disappeared, and Lopez seemed no closer to making any last-minute changes to DOT's plan ahead of work starting next month.

"We have to use our ability to listen to the public, but we also have to go by what we know as traffic engineers," Lopez said. "I know it's not popular with this board, and its not popular to the people in this room. And we did do a lot of listening.

"With all due respect, I'm sorry you feel this way. But this decision to go forward was made with the best interest in the community."