A crew with backhoes showed up at a scrap of dirt off West 251st Street separating Post Road from Broadway last month to address a road that’s not been treated with the respect due a 400-year-old landmark.
Neighbors and elected officials have asked the state’s Office of General Services to address the unkempt, derelict Old Albany Post Road for ages. Abandoned vehicles, trash, old mattresses and potholes are ever-present. The road backs several buildings whose occupants use it as a makeshift parking lot. In winter, the huge mud puddle freezes to form more of a small ice skating rink than a simple pothole.
Complaints to the city have produced no tangible results. Even a January news conference by Councilman Andrew Cohen and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz wasn’t enough to spur immediate action. They demanded that either the state or city take responsibility for upkeep of the road, something of a hot potato between the two.
The state offered to sell the scrap of ground to the city’s transportation department for $1, but with millions needed to get it back up to a basic standard of quality, the offer failed to tempt DOT. Borough transportation commissioner Navardo Lopez said last December that the city would need to do “extensive review” before assenting.
But then came the heavy rains of spring that filled the mammoth depression with muddy water. The Old Albany Post Lake had to go.
“I gave it that name,” Dinowitz said. “I named the lake. It’s been there for years.”
Long ago, Dinowitz said he pushed for some action on the road, but General Services demurred, stating it’s charge was maintaining government buildings and not roads. In fact, the agency wasn’t even equipped for such a task.
Yet, conditions continued to get worse, forcing Dinowitz to reach out to General Services commissioner RoAnn Destito.
That was enough to get the ball rolling. Finally. Within days, workers pumped out the water, cleaned out the drains, picked up the trash, and leveled out the ground as best they could.
“She said they were going to do something else to prevent that from happening again, some permanent fix of the problem,” Dinowitz said. “And it is a longer term problem.”
The state addressed immediate safety issues like standing water, according to a General Services spokesman. The quick fix will have to do for now “as deliberations continue toward a long-term solution for the property.”
But it’s unclear what that solution will be, or when to expect it.
“I don’t see the state investing millions of dollars on that street,” Dinowitz said. “I don’t think that’s very realistic because, for what? You can’t drive there. Nobody’s building houses there.”
If the state finds a buyer, it must first resolve encroachment by neighboring properties that tread just a little beyond the legal boundaries to expand driveways. New owners must decide if they want to allow communal use by neighbors or close it off to prevent anyone from driving or parking on it.
And owners will need to keep the road in better shape than the state has.
It’s questionable there will be buyers with the money and motivation to keep the road passable.
Old Albany Post Road is just one of several neglected properties the state owns but serves no real purpose, Dinowitz said. The same is true for roads in Riverdale’s estate area, where it’s unclear if the city or neighbors are the true owners, and therefore responsible for maintenance. Potholes proliferate and expand while the two sides shift blame.
“This is just one of many examples,” the Assemblyman said. “There’s just not money for the state to pour millions and millions of dollars on this, which is unfortunate. So at least we should make sure we don’t have these kinds of problems.”