Tag Archive | "Department of Transportation"

Despite years of reform, NYC subways remain inaccessible

A man in a full-length leg cast and crutches about to make his way up two flights of stairs at the Mt. Eden Ave. station.

On a Wednesday afternoon, a woman wearing glasses and holding a cane struggled up the steps of the elevated Morris Heights Mt. Eden Ave. 4 train platform. Just ahead was her 9-year-old daughter, who heaved a huge empty metal shopping cart slowly up each step. Sweat rolled down her face.

“Come on!” the daughter shouted to herself.

Both Marisol Rivera and her daughter stopped frequently for breaths.

This is the daily reality of getting to and from the station, which has no elevator, for Rivera.

This isn’t the only station where  disabled residents of the Bronx struggle. Of the 14 subway stops on the 4 train line running through the borough, only two are accessible by wheelchair, according to a Metro Transit Authority (MTA) subway map

Rivera, who suffered a bad fall on slippery stairs back in 2005, has since endured long-lasting pain in her lower back, hip and legs. She relies on a walking cane to support herself.

Her child assists with carrying items like a grocery cart up the dozens of steps. But she only has the strength to lift it, empty, upwards. On their way down, when the cart is full, Rivera has to lower it herself, she said.

A lack of elevators poses a problem for mothers with babies, too. Laurie Hernandez, 22, explained whenever her mother takes the train with her baby, she meets her at the station to help carry the stroller, sometimes multiple times a day. 

Leonara Delmoral, 57, is a transplant patient who relies on a walking cane. In the 20 years she has lived in her neighborhood, Mt. Eden Ave. and other stations in the Bronx have not been accessible.

“It’s not fair. It’s two flights going up to the third floor, and then when you get in, you gotta walk upstairs, too… If you’re in a wheelchair or walker, it’s very hard,” she said. 

As of last Friday, the MTA listed 35 stations as having at least one elevator or escalator out of service. Two stations had their only elevators out of service. 

Last year, the city approved rezoning plans that are expected to increase the population of University Heights, according to the area’s community board spokesperson Remi Bola. According to Bola, University Heights’s Community Board 5 has redoubled pressure on the MTA since then, as well as the Department of Transportation (DOT) and local elected officials to add elevators at Burnside Ave. on the 4 line. But the DOT, which is in charge of issuing permits related to construction affecting sidewalks state-wide, denied the request to install elevators at Burnside Ave.

“That proposal–they did not even let it see the light of the day,” Bola said. “We need infrastructure to be able to support [the rising population].”

Assemblyman Pichardo, of District 86, works with Rider’s Alliance, a nonprofit organization that lobbies for better transportation and riders’ rights, to increase community engagement and government awareness. 

“Transportation and wheelchair accessibility is a huge problem in the Bronx, especially on the 4 line,” he wrote in a statement. “It makes it nearly impossible for handicapped individuals to have proper access.”

While Pichardo is not aware of any current legislative proposals in the Assembly aimed at resolving the issue, he said he is open to them.

As alternative handicap transportation, the MTA offers its private cab service, Access-A-Ride. But it requires ordering a day in advance, providing specific times and locations and is slower than a train.

Delmoral said she never applied for Access-A-Ride because she’d seen first-hand, the extreme wait times while working at a private doctor’s office in Manhattan.

“In my experience with Access-A-Ride, you’ll be stuck there waiting the whole day,” she said. 

As soon as a patient was dropped off at her office by the service, Delmoral knew to call Access-A-Ride immediately to schedule the patient’s ride home. But even then, the patient would be seen by the doctor well before the service arrived to take them home, according to Delmoral.

Last spring, MTA President Andy Byford launched an initiative called Fast Forward, which featured proposals ranging from redesigning bus routes to improving station access. New York’s transit system is the largest in North America. However, only a quarter of its 472 stations are wheelchair accessible. The MTA released a proposal on Monday with plans to install new elevators or escalators at up to 66 stations within the next five years.

But for Rivera, Delmoral and others like them, the planned changes can’t come soon enough. In the meantime, they must resort to what little is available. 

“We do what we got to do,” Rivera said. 

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MTA Reveals Rail Service Proposal to East Bronx Neighborhoods

MTA officials launched a series of informational sessions to outline a proposed Metro-North rail service to four neighborhoods in the East Bronx. The project, which is to be completed by 2019, aims to provide swifter access to and from the area to Midtown Manhattan, Westchester and communities outside of the city.

Construction of the new train stations are being proposed for Hunts Point, Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-op City, DNAinfo reports. Expansion of the Metro-North service would connect the existing Hudson line with one line along the west side of Manhattan. The existing New Haven line in Westchester would connect to another line along the Bronx.

MTA officials’ proposal to build six new train stations intends to shorten the commute of roughly 5,000 Bronx residents who currently use the Metro-North line to travel to their jobs outside the city and to foster economic growth in the Bronx.

 

 

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City Seeks Bronx Residents’ Views on Greenways

Cyclists get ready to survey the Bronx. (Sonia Paul/ The Bronx Ink)

Groups of cyclists aren’t a common sight in the South Bronx, especially on a blistering, late-summer day.

But on Aug. 26, community advocates from the Bronx River Alliance, Transportation Alternatives, Bronx Health Reach and other local organizations gathered on the corner of Whitlock Avenue and Westchester Avenue with helmets on their heads and their bicycles by their sides.

Their mission was to document the conditions on the roads linking Hunts Point Riverside Park, Concrete Plant Park and the soon-to-be-opened Starlight Park. For years, these groups have been asking the city’s Departments of Transportation and City Planning to improve the greenways within the parks. Now, city officials finally seem to be paying attention — and in an ongoing series of meetings, they’ve been asking the community firsthand what they want for the greenways.

Concrete Plant Park has been open to the public since 2009, and Hunts Point Riverside Park since 2007, but the community groups say both parks need upgrading.


View Current Conditions on the Bronx River Greenways in a larger map

“A part of the issue is that the on-street connections haven’t been properly connected,” said Devona Sharpe, greenway coordinator for the Bronx River Alliance. “And the condition of the street itself, it’s not inviting to users.”

The most direct path connecting the three different parks follows a north-south route along the Bronx River, with a U-turn around the busy Bruckner Expressway. From Hunts Point Riverside Park to Starlight Park, pedestrians and cyclists have to navigate through difficult terrain simply to get from one street to the next, as well as from one park to the next. Tree roots pushing through cracked sidewalks, shards of glass on the road and nonexistent bike lanes are just some of the physical barriers on the roads.

Though greenways exist inside the parks, they don’t fit into the grander scheme of urban planning in the area, said Linda R. Cox, executive director and Bronx River administrator of the Bronx River Alliance, at a community meeting on Sept. 6, after the cyclists documented the conditions on the roads.

“The greenway isn’t just about the parks,” she said at the meeting. “It really is about what we do on the streets.”

Staffers from the city’s Department of Transportation were also present to show their plans for the greenway and take comments and suggestions. According to Scott Gastell, spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, city planners have been working on a greenway proposal for the past three years. Their priority is to make the greenway more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists, but they must consider the large number of vehicles that cross the area every day.

Figuring out how to negotiate access for pedestrians and cyclists is a growing issue in the Bronx, where vehicles dominate the roads. In 2010, 169,550 vehicles traveled daily in both directions on the Sheridan Expressway, according to traffic volume reports from the state Department of Transportation. The number of vehicles passing through Westchester Avenue the same year was 108,770. To get to Starlight Park, which is scheduled to open this fall, residents and visitors must navigate both roads.

At the Sept. 6 meeting, representatives from the Department of Transportation said they are planning to visit local community boards in the next couple of months to gather more opinions on their greenway proposal before they submit it for official city approval.

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, Featured, Southern Bronx, TransportationComments (0)

Bronx Seniors Target Dangerous Intersections

Bronx Seniors Target Dangerous Intersections

AARP New York State Director Lois Aronstein attends the Complete Streets Week event in Parkchester.

AARP New York State Director Lois Aronstein attends the Complete Streets Week event in Parkchester. (AARP)

The corner of Wood Avenue and White Plains Road in the Parkchester section of the Bronx had more than its fair share of stop signs Friday morning. And for a good cause.

The intersection, which has a stop light, is one of the 50 most dangerous in New York City, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT). This prompted a group of about 40 seniors – wearing stop-sign red shirts – to set up camp at the intersection’s four corners to conduct a safety survey. They tracked everything from the timing of stoplights to the upkeep of the area’s asphalt.

The AARP’s grassroots “Create the Good” movement is coordinating the monitoring campaign. Its pedestrian safety surveys received the backing of several local Bronx politicians, including James Vacca, the New York City Council member for District 13.

“It is no longer an exception for people to live into their 80s,” said Vacca, the current chair of the council’s Transportation Committee. “It is the rule. And these folks still want to go out and do things like go out to the supermarket. We’ve got to make sure the streets are safe for them.”

By many standards, the streets are not safe. New York state has more pedestrian fatalities per year than all but two other states. The high incidence can be attributed to heavy traffic in New York City.

In 2008 alone, the area defined by the DOT as “downstate New York” – New York City, Long Island and Westchester, Rockland and Dutchess counties – suffered 232 pedestrian fatalities. Several incidents have highlighted particularly dangerous intersections, such as Broadway and 230th Street in the Bronx.

The intersection, which saw 19 crashes from 1995 to 2005, according to crashstat.org, claimed one more victim on March 22. Four year-old Josh Delarosa was blind-sided when heading to nursery school during Monday rush hour. He was rushed into critical care at the Columbia Presbyterian Children’s Hospital, whose spokesman confirmed to the Bronx Ink that he has since left. Calls to his daycare center – Growing Happy on 238th Street and Broadway – and his family went unanswered.

But Delarosa’s story is in keeping with that of the tri-state area. After a slight decline in overall pedestrian deaths from 2006 to 2008 in Connecticut, New Jersey and “downstate New York – from 443 to 407 – the earliest data from 2009 showed an uptick, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

The fear of a pedestrian death is acutely felt among seniors. Two in five Americans over the age of 50 say their neighborhood sidewalks aren’t safe, a recent AARP study found.

“The light changes before you even get across the street,” 78-year-old Harriet Miller, who uses a walker, said about the corner of Wood and Metropolitan, also located in Parkchester. “What are you supposed to do with that?”

AARP organized the Friday event as part of National Volunteer Week. The initiative is called “Complete Streets Week: Making New York Walkable for All Generations.”

Hundreds of intersections are going to be surveyed by the end of the week. On Friday, the AARP team was conducting similar public events at notorious intersections in Harlem and Rockland County.

Jessica Lappin, the New York City Council Member for the Fifth District in Manhattan, made the trek up to Wood Avenue and White Plains Road to express her solidarity with the “Complete Streets Week” event. Her motivation – the death of an 82-year-old woman a week and a half ago at an intersection in her district, which includes the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island.

“An unsafe corner for seniors is an unsafe corner for me,” Lappin said.

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Child struck at ‘terrible’ intersection

By Ryan Tracy and Dan Lieberman

Word that four year-old Joshua Delarosa was still alive came as good news Tuesday to folks familiar with the intersection at 230th Street and Broadway, but news of another accident in the area was no surprise.

Yolanda Ellerbe, 43, stood near the site of the accident that left Delarosa in critical condition at New York Presbyterian Hospital Columbia Monday as a pair of crossing guards in reflective vests tried, often in vein, to hold off drivers cutting through the crosswalks. Ellerbe called the intersection “terrible.”

Near 230th Street and Broadway, where a car accident injured a four year-old Bronx resident Monday morning, caution tape marked the site of the crash.

Near 230th Street and Broadway, where a car accident injured a four year-old Bronx resident Monday morning, caution tape marked the site of the crash. (Ryan Tracy/Bronx Ink)

Between 1995 and 2005, 19 crashes occurred at the location, according to crashstat.org, a website run by pedestrian advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. There were two pedestrian injuries at the same intersection last year, according to the city Department of Transportation.  Another injury occurred there in 2007, but none were reported in 2008 and 2009.

In 2005, a man in a wheelchair was killed after an SUV hit him at the intersection and dragged him 50 yards.  Another pedestrian was killed at the same intersection in 1999, according to crashstat.org.

“There’s too many schools around here, they need to do something about the (traffic) lights,” said Ellerbe, who worked with Delarosa’s family at a Head Start Program in the Marble Hill public housing buildings next to the intersection.  Delarosa’s mother, Romula Fernandez, was walking him to day care on Monday morning when a swerving livery cab knocked over a nearby traffic sign.  The sign fell and hit the child.

Other observers echoed Ellerbe’s concerns about safety.

“This street, the cars, they running fast,” said Jose Avelar, who can see the intersection from his nearby barber shop.  “There’s something every week.”

After the crash, a nearby crossing guard lifted a traffic sign off Delarosa’s body.  The driver of the cab, who turned to avoid a city Department of Environmental Protection truck “could have run over (Delarosa).  He could have crushed him,” said the crossing guard, who asked to remain anonymous because she was not supposed to speak with the media.

The crossing guard, who has been working with the New York Police Department for 11 years, said she was nearly hit by the sign.  Her navy raincoat still had yellow stains on the sleeve from the spot where a street sign had fallen against it.  She quickly grabbed the heavy sign and surprised even herself with her strength.

“I’m still amazed I did that,” she recalled.

As rain fell, cars, buses and trucks rolled through from five directions.  Schoolchildren, mothers with strollers, people in wheelchairs and dozens of pedestrians walked from side to side, hiding behind steel pillars as vehicles rushed by and a subway train rumbled overhead.

Delarosa’s mother was also injured in the accident, but was discharged from the St. Barnabus Medical Center emergency room Tuesday, said a hospital spokesman.

Ellerbe said she had spoken to Delarosa’ mother Tuesday afternoon and she had reported Delarosa was “doing a little better.”  Ellerbe’s colleagues at Little Angels Head Start expect Delarosa to attend pre-school there this fall.

Last year, the mother had regularly dropped off his older sister at the center, and it was clear young Joshua wanted to go to school too.  “He would come in in the morning and go right in the classroom and sit in the chair immediately,”  Ellerbe remembered.

Despite statistics showing accidents in the Bronx have decreased since 2001, “There are still too many accidents caused by driver inattention, speeding, and failing to yield to pedestrians and too many motorists speed away from crash scenes,” said DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow.

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