Councilman calls for better pedestrian lighting under Westchester Avenue el in Pelham Bay

Councilman calls for better pedestrian lighting under Westchester Avenue el in Pelham Bay
Photo courtesy of Andrew Chirico

Concern about pedestrian safety at night on several blocks under the IRT#6 el on Westchester Avenue has some proposing new lighting.

Councilman James Vacca reached out to the city Department of Transportation during the summer after hearing complaints about inadequate sidewalk lighting after nightfall in Pelham Bay between Buhre Avenue and Middletown Road.

The councilman reached out to DOT in June requesting additional lighting, but recently received a response from the agency saying that it had conducted a survey and found the street lights adequate for the location based on the agency’s Division of Street Light standards.

However, the agency advised the councilman it would replace two lights that were out.

The councilman, undeterred by the decision, personally walked the stretch of streets after nightfall very recently, and saw it, or maybe he couldn’t see it, with his own eyes.

“I walked on the sidewalk from the Buhre station to Middletown Road, and I found it to be very dark,” said the councilman.

“DOT has declined so far to make any improvements, but I am going to write them a letter specifically detailing my own experience.”

The pedestrian area between Pilgrim and Mayflower avenues is especially dim, the councilman reports, possibly because there are few commercial establishments nearby.

Councilman Vacca also pointed out the current lights do not provide enough illumination, and they shine mostly towards the street.

“I am on the case and I do believe it is an area that needs more lighting,” he said.

Andrew Chirico, Waterbury LaSalle Community Association board member, said that he has been concerned about the safety of people on the street on Westchester Avenue at night, and that he had brought the matter to the councilman, who took swift action in reaching out to DOT.

“It goes back to common sense,” said Chirico. “If you walk around there at night, even though there are some street lamps, the sidewalk for pedestrians is very dark. We have had trouble elsewhere and we don’t want to have trouble with people under the el being robbed or having any difficulty there.”

Chirico believes that one possible solution to the situation would be to install street lamp poles that include two lights: one facing the street and one towards the sidewalk.

This type of lighting, which faces and lights up the sidewalk, are already in use under the el structure along Westchester Avenue near Parkchester and Westcheter Square, said Chirico, adding that he has also seen them elsewhere in the city.

“It is not a new idea, it is one that has been used before and I think it is needed,” he said, adding he would like to see such lighting running all the way from Middletown Road to the Pelham Bay Park Station on the IRT #6.

Ironically, there was one such light in Pelham Bay at the intersection of Buhre, Crosby and Westchester avenues, outside of George’s Diner, until recently, said Chirico.

“For the safety of everybody, it would be good either to have brighter lights (above the street’s roadway), or the sidewalk side of the street lit up with two lamps on the pole,” he said.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.