Curb your enthusiasm

Neighbors say extending a sidewalk creates more problems than it solves

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Change is never easy to accept, especially when it comes to changes to streets, sidewalks and intersections. It’s not just about acceptance when it comes to changes near Kappock Street and Palisade Avenue intended to make that intersection safer — some of its Spuyten Duyvil neighbors are actively speaking out against it.

Some of those very neighbors attended the recent Community Board 8 traffic and transportation committee fighting a project first proposed by the city’s transportation department last May extending curbs on both sides of Kappock as well as adding three crosswalks. The work, DOT officials say, would fix the three-way intersection created from Kappock meeting the narrow and winding Palisade Avenue at an angle.

When the project is completed, signs will be added to the intersection warning drivers about the upcoming pedestrian-heavy intersection.

While the changes are intended to make this area safer for those not in cars, some neighbors like Lewis Wunderlich fear it might do the exact opposite. The 2727 Palisade Avenue resident is concerned about visibility as cars pull out of his building’s driveway, parallel to the south curb extension.

“We’ve always had a line-of-sight issue there,” Wunderlich said. “Because Palisade Avenue curves and it also dips. It’s always been problematic.”

Vehicles traveling north on Palisade had some extra room to move out of the way if a car was coming out of his building’s driveway, Wunderlich said. But now that contingency space is gone, but the line-of-sight issues remain.

The street narrowing caught the attention of Sandra Haiman as well.

“A person had complained about the wideness of the street,” she said. “So they extended the sidewalk so it narrows what was an adequate passageway for a two-way street to 30 feet. The absolute minimum.”

But DOT says it’s more concerned about those not in cars when it comes to that particular intersection than those who are. Craig Sachs wanted to check out the construction, so he rode his bicycle to the intersection to find — at least from his own observation —the intended changes do make it safer for bikers and pedestrians.

“It certainly slowed everything down,” Sachs said. “If you take a look over at 555 Kappock, that used to be an open area where people would just do donuts and speed around the corners.”

As far as the new intersection for Kappock and Palisade, “I think it’s fine. It’s shortened the crosswalk,” he added. “Now, at least, if you’re at a crosswalk, a car will see you here.”

Traffic and transportation committee member David Gellman pointed out how the crossing distance for pedestrians has been shortened considerably with the addition of the new curb extensions.

Shira Silverman says she’s not looking at the intersection work as a driver, but instead as a dog walker.

“A mail truck can hit me just as easily standing there as before,” she said of the southern curb extension. “All they needed was a stop sign. It’s utterly pointless.”

Beyond the traffic woes, Wunderlich also was concerned about drainage. He claimed the curb extensions redirect rainwater runoff to flow down Kappock directly into the intersection, rather than into the sewer on Palisade. He pointed to a neighbor’s video showing water gathering on the street as proof.

“We’re going to have black ice,” Wunderlich said. “It’s going to be even more hazardous.”

The original plan had included a “green street,” he said, which would have aided with drainage along the curb extension. Without that drainage capability, water gathers on and around the extra concrete.

It’s drainage that has the attention of traffic and transportation committee chair Dan Padernacht, and it was something he says his committee brought up to DOT over the course of two meetings in May and June.

“It’s one of the big reasons why we asked for a green street,” Padernacht said. “That way, the greenery would actually help with the drainage and runoff issues.”

The new concrete prevents water from flowing into the sewer on the north side, Padernacht said, and he plans to ask the city’s environmental protection department to study the intersection to find a solution.

Such a solution will have to be found quickly, however. Work already is underway — something some neighbors claimed came about without notice from DOT.

A DOT spokesperson later told The Riverdale Press that water should flow into existing catch basins at the intersection.

But that doesn’t mean people like Wunderlich are against any change at Kappock and Palisade. In fact, he told the committee he’d support removing some parking near his building’s driveway to improve sightlines. He also thinks speed bumps and stop signs also could help.

DOT wasn’t represented at the Oct. 17 meeting, so Padernacht said the intersection work would come up again for the committee’s Nov. 22 meeting. Reminding neighbors CB8’s role in this process is purely advisory — and the kind of advice that DOT has not exactly taken recently — Padernacht encouraged those with issues or alternatives to be fully prepared if they wanted any chance of making adjustments to the construction.

“I believe it depends upon how much community advocacy and support for change there is,” Padernacht said. “And how far the members of this community are willing to go and actually put pressure on DOT to make some of these changes. And we will need help from our elected officials with that advocacy.”

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz wrote two letters to Bronx DOT commissioner Nivardo Lopez, including one the very day of the committee meeting claiming the city agency last-minute issues were raised, but DOT didn’t alter its changes.

Dinowitz suggests shaving a few feet off of the southern sidewalk and adding a speed bump on Palisade as drivers approach the Kappock Street intersection.

“While I appreciate the Bronx DOT trying to make the intersection safer,” Dinowitz wrote in his letter, “I believe the newly constructed intersection could negatively impact the neighborhood residents by making it more dangerous.”

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