Categorized | Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime

Let there be light on Broadway

Corner of Broadway and 232nd Street where Nicolas Vargas Jr was shot in August  (Photo credit: Beatriz Muylaert)

It was dark at 12:30 a.m. on the last day in August when Nicolas Vargas Jr. stopped his Honda at a red light on the corner of Broadway and 232nd Street. A man wearing a white shirt approached his car window. The two exchanged words. Seconds later, Vargas was shot in the head. A suspect was arrested several days later and charged with murder.

Crimes in NYPD 50th Precinct (Source: NYC Crime Map – January to August 2018) 

The killing was the fourth murder since January in the NYPD 50th Precinct, known as the safest in the Bronx. Most of the crimes in the Riverdale and Kingsbridge precinct are concentrated in this eight-block stretch of Broadway under the No. 1 Subway tracks.”

For almost ten years, those same Broadway sidewalks from 230th to 236th Streets have been cast in the dark. For almost ten years, local residents have battled the Department of Transportation to install lights.

Finally, on September 10, local advocates won their first victory. The DOT granted permission for the Kingsbridge Business Improvement Development group to install new lights, said the BID district manager. The cost: $75,000.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Katherine Broihier, the district manager of the Kingsbridge BID.

The current light posts along Broadway have a single fixture facing the street, which provide almost no illumination for pedestrians and store owners, particularly in the dark months of winter.

Improved lighting has been a favored anti-crime tactic, adopted most recently in De Blasio’s 2014 Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety. But it’s still up for debate whether lighting reduces crime.

Deputy Inspector Terence O’Toole, the precinct’s commanding officer, said violence usually ends where it happens, especially along expressways where criminals have a rapid way out.

Regardless, lighting does increase the feeling of safety. The stores around 231st Street make the block more welcoming, where luminous signs and bright windows lend colorful hues to the black night sky. When the stores close at night, the sidewalk goes dark. Further north across 234th Street, the blocks are pitch black with construction sites and parking lots on either side.

Construction sites on Broadway between 234th and 235th Street (Photo credit: Beatriz Muylaert)

Construction sites on Broadway between 234th and 235th Street (Photo credit: Beatriz Muylaert)









Stephanie Gonzalez works at Kentucky Fried Chicken across from the IHOP on the corner where Vargas’ shooting took place. The store had been closed for less than two hours when it happened, and she said it can be scary to leave when doors close at 11pm. “It’s really dark and at night it can be dangerous for the people who are working, you know,” said Gonzalez.

This was not the first time a shooting occurred close to her. “I’ve heard of a couple shootings here while I was working,” said Gonzalez. “I remember there was one by Stop & Shop (on Broadway and 235th Street), I’ve heard of a few. I believe two or three over here.”

KFC & IHOP corner on Broadway and 232nd Street (Photo credit: Beatriz Muylaert)

A longtime resident, Maria Carrie-Lord enjoyed a sandwich on a bench in front of IHOP one September afternoon.  “You can see how dark this corner gets until you go into IHOP,” said Carrie-Lord, ”then there is light. You know, I think this area could use a little more light.”

She remembered a time when walking around didn’t raise concerns, and is enthusiastic with the idea of having more lights making her walk home feel safer. She attends neighborhood activities in the neighborhood senior centers. “This used to be completely, completely safe,” said Carrie-Lord. “And now there are a lot of things going on here. Even I who hang out pretty late, I don’t anymore.”

The road to light has been a long, dismal slog, according to Broihier. When the Kingsbridge BID decided lighting up Broadway would be a priority, it began saving a part of its annual needs assessment money for when the day came. Once it reached the desired amount of $100 thousand, they discovered that the cost was far from being the main concern.

In 2012, after years of no response from the DOT, the Kingsbridge BID contracted a study from Con Edison that recommended a second lamp be installed to illuminate the sidewalks. According to Broihier, the Department claimed it did not accept studies from Con Edison. She said this makes no sense since the electric utility Con Edison “powers their world.”

Next, she said the DOT announced that LED lights had to be installed in every one of the city’s lighting fixtures before any other initiatives could take place. That brought the lights on Bronx’s Broadway to a halt.

The Department of Transit did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails.

Now that authorization has been granted and installation costs proved the Kingsbridge BID will enter a phase of negotiation of maintenance costs and contract development with the DOT. Broihier believes this will be another long process and that lights will probably only arrive in 2020.

But for Broihier things look brighter already. “It’s the first step I’ve ever seen!”


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