Cheating on the diet: MP Avenue road plan on hold

MP road diet rage re-ignites/Rally: safety facts don’t support DOT analysis|MP road diet rage re-ignites/Rally: safety facts don’t support DOT analysis
Schneps Media / Patrick Rocchio|Schneps Media / Patrick Rocchio

Work on the NYC Department of Transportation’s Vision Zero ‘road diet’ plan for Morris Park Avenue was supposed to begin the last week of April.

That was before a lawsuit initiated by Councilman Mark Gjonaj, the Morris Park Community Association and various businesses on the corridor and subsequent injunction brought the plan to a screeching halt on Monday, April 29.

An injunction was issued by the Bronx Supreme Court on Thursday, May 2 on grounds of “community concerns of the potential damages that would be caused by the initiative valid enough to issue a temporary restraining order barring the city from moving forward with its ‘road dieting’ plan for this vital commercial corridor.”

Until the status of that injunction is revisited by the court on Wednesday, May 29, Gjonaj and Morris Park businesses can celebrate their David vs. Goliath victory over City Hall.

The councilman met the MPCA, Community Board 11 chairman Al D’Angelo and others from the community on Morris Park Avenue in between Colden and Paulding avenues on Friday, May 3 to discuss the temporary victory.

“This gives the mayor and the city an opportunity to re-approach the issue of Morris Park Avenue,” Gjonaj said.

“Now this time valuing the long-given input of the community and reaching something we can all agree on,” he continued.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit Gjonaj and others filed against de Blasio, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and DOT Bronx Borough Commissioner Nivardo Lopez, was Morris Park’s ‘last stand’ to stop the unpopular road diet.

The road diet plan was overwhelming opposed by a majority of CB11 members.

A 15-month battle has raged between Morris Park and city over its plan to reduce the four-lane roadway into a single lane in each direction while implementing dedicated turn bays and bicycle lanes on the bustling business corridor from Newport Avenue on the east to Adams Street on the western tip, while adding a truck loading zones between Colden and Paulding avenues, according to DOT.

In that time, MPCA chairman Al D’Angelo and CB11 had presented concerns to the city about side street crowding.

“(If the road diet is approved) cars will avoid Morris Park Avenue and create congestion on our residential streets,” D’Angelo said.

Prior to inking the lawsuit, he had presented alternatives to DOT and the city in an effort to find a middle ground.

“I suggested staggering the traffic ights to dslow down traffic,” the chairman said. “They didn’t want to try that before spending money on this road diet,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Gjonaj’s concerns with the plan are that it could lead to longer response times for emergency vehicles bustling across the major thoroughfare to neighboring Jacobi Medical Center and Montefiore Hospital.

“Despite valid and overwhelming community opposition, the administration planned to move forward with their ‘City Hall knows best” approach,’ Gjonaj said.

A ‘anti road diet’ petition on garnered over 1,088 electronic signatures.

When not volunteering as chairman of CB11 or president of MPCA, D’Angelo operates a small business on Morris Park Avenue. He and the other ‘mom and pops’ that signed onto the lawsuit fear that the City’s plan will hurt their livelihood and make customer parking even more challenging than it already is.

That’s a point Gjonaj seconded, saying, “in this case, Vision Zero is a shortsighted plan.”

The councilman also expressed the belief that the area’s congestion will be at an all time high once the Morris Park Metro North Railroad station is constructed in several years.

However, Kevin Daloia the head of Transportation Alternatives Bronx branch and avid cyclist expressed support for the road diet.

Adding bicycle lanes to Morris Park Avenue is a neccessity, said Daloia, who rides the avenue fairly often.

“I believe the road diet will make the corridor safer,” he said.

Another issue that both sides agree on is that congestion on Morris Park Avenue is exasperated by double-parked cars and trucks, which can only be resolved through NYPD traffic enforcement.