Neighbors unite for a street fight

City's plan to make Kappock Street safer is decried as unsafe

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Spuyten Duyvil has a new group seeking to change things in the neighborhood.

The Coalition to Save the Neighborhood had its second meeting Nov. 9, discussing the newest project by the city’s transportation department at the intersection of Palisade Avenue and Kappock Street.

Completed in October, the project consists of two large curb extensions on the corners of Palisade and Kappock, intended to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians, improve their visibility, and slow passing and turning cars as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. The project also added high-visibility crosswalks.

Neighbors decried the changes, however, claiming the new extensions made the street too narrow, especially on the south side of Kappock, and that it was difficult for cars and trucks to pass. Residents of 2727 Palisade Ave., which sits directly at the end of Kappock, say the newly narrowed street makes it too difficult to turn out of their driveway safely.

So, 2727 Palisade resident Joseph Harrington got together with his wife Mary and two other frustrated neighbors to form the coalition.

Saturday was the coalition’s second meeting which, according to a flyer passed around to neighbors, is working to scale back the curb extensions, increase the width of the street at 2727 Palisade’s driveway, and add green space to the large extensions.

“We’re up to 50 names on the mailing list,” Harrington said. “The only thing we can do is keep sending emails, and talk to the press, and hope that there’s no accident in the meantime.”

Harrington says he can’t remember a particular accident or incident at the intersection, but that cars drove too fast through there.

“It’s made it more difficult, which is what I found interesting,” said Joseph Rosenbaum, who lives nearby. “With the new configuration, almost every car traveling northbound on Palisade that was now navigating the right-hand turn onto Kappock was making the turn so wide that they were literally over the double yellow line.”

Additionally, cars driving west on Kappock toward Palisade were not stopping at the stop sign line, but rolling forward into the crosswalk so they could see oncoming traffic or pedestrians on Palisade.

“To be fair, it’s the only way you can see with the way this new outcropping is,” Rosenbaum said.

DOT borough commissioner Nivardo Lopez attended the weekend meeting to hear the neighborhood complaints. Harrington gave him credit for coming to the meeting and talking with neighbors for about 90 minutes, but says he still wants more.

“We feel he still doesn’t address the two major issues, which are we want the project scaled back, and we want green space,” Harrington said. “He said, ‘We’re going to monitor the situation and see how it works.’”

Lopez’s office was not open Monday because of the Veterans Day holiday, and a call made Tuesday was not returned.

“One resident made the point that there are projects — traffic lights, stop signs, speed bumps — that residents in the Bronx are clamoring for,” Rosenbaum said. “And they go through weeks and months of studies and outreach.”

Rosenbaum feels DOT intentionally didn’t let anyone know about the impending project, and rushed to complete it. He supports some changes to the intersection to make it safer, but doesn’t think the current project was the way to go.

Outreach was another major complaint for both Harrington and Rosenbaum.

“There was virtually no consultation by the community board,” Rosenbaum said. “I can’t tell you if they did or if they didn’t, but it does appear that it was inefficient and didn’t accomplish what they wanted.”

Community Board 8 chair Rosemary Ginty said hearing neighbors proclaim they were unaware of the project was “distressing.”

“This community board office goes beyond what any office does in notifying,” Ginty said. “We have our website, we have a Facebook page, we have Twitter. Over 1,000 people receive our email monthly. With meetings, agendas, and all of that.”

When new projects are proposed, the board sends letters to nearby single-family homes, and notifies the superintendent or managing agent at apartment buildings.

That, Ginty said, might be where confusion is happening.

“We ask them, ‘Can you post this on your notice board, in your laundry room, in your mail room?’” she said. “If they don’t post it, it’s not our fault.”

Still, though, CB8 is trying to figure out more ways to let residents know about upcoming projects, including getting in contact with small community organizations, posting outdoor flyers, and communicating with the Association of Riverdale Cooperatives & Condominiums.

On Monday evening, coalition member Mary Serri emailed Lopez thanking him for attending the meeting, but expressing disappointment there was not “a path to see how the problem would be solved by the DOT.”

DOT officials are expected at the next CB8 traffic and transportation committee meeting Nov. 21 at The Riverdale Y to discuss the Kappock and Hudson Manor Terrace projects. Harrington hopes Lopez or someone from the DOT can address whether the work done at Kappock was an overreach.

“There was no incident that we can remember,” he said of the intersection. “Some people thought the traffic was too fast. Somebody asked for a stop sign, and (DOT) got completely carried away.”

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