Valerie Katz drives her husband to the Spuyten Duyvil Metro-North station every day he commutes to work in Manhattan. And every day, she drives carefully around the gaping potholes in the station parking lot, as well as on nearby Edsall Avenue.
“I go over it every day and I go very, very slow, but sometimes I see cars that don’t know and they go zooming through it, and that’s not good,” Katz said. “And I see people getting off the train and the potholes are right where the stairs are, so it’s not a safe spot there.”
She decided somebody needed to call attention to conditions, so in early April, she reported the roads to 311, the city’s complaint line. She got passed to another agency.
“I talked to Metro-North, and at first they said to me they don’t own it and to just call the city,” Katz said. “So I called the city and they told me they didn’t own it.”
Then she called the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency overseeing the commuter railway line. But they sent her back to Metro-North again. Their officials finally told her they’d get to the bottom of things.
“They did a whole investigation,” Katz said. “They told me it was definitely owned by the city, so then I called 311 back and they transferred me to 911.”
Katz spent three weeks hoping she’d arrive at the station one evening to collect her husband and find some of the potholes filled, or at least a call back from those she contacted with a projected date some repair could happen.
“I tried everybody,” she said. “I called (Assemblyman) Jeffrey Dinowitz’s office and I tried (state Sen.) Alessandra Biaggi’s office, and I even tried the New York Post. I kept waiting for somebody to call back.”
The city’s transportation department did finally respond, but to The Riverdale Press, admitting the road and parking lot was indeed its responsibility.
“DOT recently repaired potholes on Edsall Avenue this February. We will continue to monitor and make repairs to this street, as well as look into the possibility of including it into a future resurfacing schedule,” according to a DOT statement. “We can also confirm that Edsall Road is mapped and titled to this city and that DOT will continue to maintain it.”
But transportation officials did not respond to further questions about why the road continues to be in such poor condition if potholes were filled three months ago. There also was no response about when the city plans to resurface the road.
Usually, a 311 report will flag problems that need attention, said Ariana Collado, Councilman Andrew Cohen’s chief of staff.
“When we see a 311 complaint, we reach out to DOT, and we put it on their radar and indicate this is going on and ask if they can address it,” Collado said. “The response we’ve gotten from DOT has been usually pretty good. I know during the winter months they’re a little a more overwhelmed due to the thaw and deterioration of the roads. But for the most part, I would like to say we get a good response.”
Katz’s plight isn’t unique. Small roads along the Hudson River in Spuyten Duyvil and Riverdale fall into a gray area that makes it unclear who owns the roads and who is responsible for maintaining them. A street may be smooth and maintained in one stretch, only to abruptly switch to bumpy and unkempt a few yards later.
Residents of the estate district are fed up with roads riddled with potholes unbecoming of a New York City street. Drivers must brace themselves and their coffee cups when traveling parts of Independence Avenue, for example. Buses and parents creep along bumpy streets to drop students at Riverdale Country School on Fieldston Road and SAR Academy on West 254th Street.
Yet complaints do little. Many of those roads were part of a privately held subdivision built by wealthy residents during the 19th and 20th centuries, and never deeded to the city. Transportation officials will consider patching problem areas, but because the many riverside roads aren’t city property, their condition isn’t DOT’s responsibility.
But that’s not the case on Edsall Avenue and the Metro-North parking area, which actually belongs to the city. With that in mind, commuters believe the area needs immediate attention since so many rely on Metro-North to travel to Manhattan and other places in the tri-state area.
In this case, there was a good outcome. After a flurry of calls to agencies and elected officials by The Press, Katz was greeted by a pleasant surprise when she took her husband to the train station the following Monday: DOT sent a repair crew to patch the potholes on the street and the parking area.
“It’s not 100 percent, but it’s much better,” Katz said. “Enough so that no one will get injured. The whole road wasn’t repaved as they said, but this is an improvement.”