Community wants more say in ConEd roadwork planning


To many, Con Edison workers appear to rip up streets with no ostensible plan. It causes traffic problems and costs parking. Even worse, metal coverings over dig sites aren’t bolted down at night, meaning those trying to get a good night’s sleep in areas where construction is taking place are kept awake by the constant clank, clank every time a car runs over a covering.

While ConEd’s work on the gas lines might be important, these neighbors have had enough. They crowded into a Community Board 8 traffic and transportation committee meeting at The Riverdale Y on Nov. 30 to air their complaints.

”I’d like to know why, between Van Cortlandt West and along Sedgwick Avenue going to West 238th Street, ConEd does not wet down their dust at the end of the day,” said one resident, Susan Braunstein. “There are many issues with the bus coming around the bend, the heavy traffic between 3, 4 o’clock, north and south on Sedgwick. The dust was flying all over the place, and some of us who inhaled it got very sick.” 

She pointed to the Bronx’s high chronic obstructive pulmonary disease rates and called the dust “a very, very serious issue.” 

It’s not just dust and street closures that have been a particularly troublesome point for the community, traffic and transportation committee chair Dan Padernacht said. There are places where ConEd has closed off the street in a way that could obstruct emergency vehicles from getting through.

While a lot of that turmoil over the past year has occurred in Van Cortlandt Village, ConEd also has been busy in North Riverdale along Arlington Avenue, as well as in south Riverdale with street closures on West 232nd Street and Netherland Avenue.

And although much of that work already is complete, the major focus now is at the intersection of Kappock Street and Independence Avenue, on Giles Place, and on Cannon Place, said ConEd spokesman Allan Drury.

The project has created unannounced street closures, unnecessary removal of parking, noise, dust and debris left after each day, Padernacht added, as well as permit violations.

“It’s frustrating for many people in the community who don’t know that a street is closed and get re-routed onto congested streets,” he said.

ConEd has the authority to restrict parking during daytime hours to work, often from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. But it’s becoming a problem where ConEd is blocking parking 24 hours a day in violation of permits, Padernacht said — a major issue in communities already plagued by a shortage of parking spots. Some residents reported circling streets for an hour or more in search of a spot. 

Such restrictions are important, ConEd officials told Padernacht, as just a couple of cars parked on a street in the morning could delay progress. 

There’s also the problem of debris and dust, as gravel and blacktop flies around the street and often isn’t cleaned up on a daily, or even a weekly, basis. ConEd could be forced to ensure such cleanup takes place — but only if the city’s transportation department will enforce its permits, Padernacht said.

“It’s DOT’s job to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community by enforcing its permits,” Padernacht said. “That didn’t happen here.”

Although ConEd has multiple projects on several streets within the community, the utility company never approached CB8 before beginning work, Padernacht said.

“The question goes back to DOT,” Padernacht said. “It appears DOT isn’t looking at the effect on the overall community or even the immediate area before issuing these permits, and in my opinion, approved too many permits at the same time.”

According to DOT spokeswoman Lolita Avila, the transportation department “is aware of community concerns” and said the city agency would “work closely” with neighbors to address those issues.

ConEd construction manager Robert Forloine said the company would try to improve communication with the community next year. That’s important, because tearing up the road is just the beginning.

ConEd will continue its gas main replacement work in Riverdale and throughout its service area in 2018, with a goal to replace all steel and cast-iron piping within 20 years, Drury said. 

ConEd tries to conduct its work in a way that causes the least disruption possible to residents and businesses, Drury added, while still communicating with community boards, elected officials and neighborhood groups about upcoming projects.

Still, there’s a lot of room for improvement, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said.

 “When ConEd says the work is done, it just means they’ve finished the gas lines, or whatever it is they’re doing under there, but it doesn’t mean it’s done,” Dinowitz said. “If they actually pave over, then it’s done-done, or done-squared. In every corner of the district where it’s being done — Van Cortlandt Village has been a disaster; up in Skyview and on 256th Street — those streets were left, for months on end it seemed, huge swaths of area, there was no parking. 

“And I thought it was really mishandled with very little sensitivity to the needs of the community.”