Death Row sidewalks

Tower ladders could have a hard time swinging to the Pelham Parkway South service road now that the new sidewalks have been put in place. They also have trouble extending their stablizers.
File Photo

A new – maybe optional – sidewalk along Pelham Parkway’s south service road is a potential deathtrap.

Two successive tests by the Fire Department found fire rigs not only have trouble turning onto the road from side streets, but the new sidewalk hinders tower ladders from fully extending their support stanchions to keep from tipping over.

The tower ladders would be needed for the dozens of hi-rise apartment buildings between White Plains Road and a block beyond Williamsbridge Road.

Sources said the Fire Department was informed by the city Department of Design and Construction of construction details before the 4-foot sidewalk, part of the $30 million parkway rehab, was built.

“It apparently got lost in the bureaucracy,” said one source. “Now they’re being very guarded about it at fire headquarters.”

All involved agencies are due to meet – behind closed doors – at Community Board 11 offices next Wednesday, May 30.

John Fratta, CB 11 assistant district manager, said fire officials ran two tests along the service road, each time having trouble turning the rigs onto the servicce road, as well as extending the stabilizers.

Fratta said when he told DDC the sidewalks had to go, he was told apartment building residents could always use the fire escapes to flee flames.

“Give me a break!” said Fratta.

Fire Department spokesman Frank Gribbon responded that the department intends to have the city Department of Transportation install No Standing signs at corners “where there are turning radius issues.”

He said it is still looking at the stabilizer issue.

The community board passed a resolution at its April meeting calling on the city to rip up the sidewalks – and NOT ban parking along the service road, since local parking is at a premium.

“I have felt for some time now that somebody in city government goofed when they implemented the new design on Pelham Parkway,” said City Councilman Jimmy Vacca. “If there’s an issue with fire protecdtion, then the city better reassure us and tell us how they are going to address it.”

While No Standing signs have been posted along the service road to allow a temporary bus route, that will end in six months.

It may not always prevent vehicles from being illegtally parked there, blocking fire engine turns, he said.

“I don’t doubt it will cost several millions to tear up that sidewalk,” he wrote, “but if it’s not safe from a fire point of view, we have to know.”

Some have questioned whether the sidewalks are more a guideline, rather than a requirement for federal funding under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

State Senator Jeff Klein said he’s “extremely concerned that the narrowing of this Pelham Parkway service road to twenty six feet makes this busily trafficked thoroughfare now one of the narrowest streets in the entire neighborhood.”

“While we all appreciate the city’s desire to provide these sidewalks for additional pedestrian safety, the interference they could have an on emergency vehicle jeopardizes the safety of my constituents. As such, I’ve asked the city to relocate or remove the sidewalks.“

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