Death Row

Fire trucks had a hard time trying to make turns onto side streets from Pelham Parkway south during a emergency vehicle test in April.
Photo Courtesy of Concerned Citizens for Pelham Parkway South

This stretch of road could be a Death Row in the making.

A new sidewalk along a major residential stretch of the Pelham Parkway makeover has narrowed the side road so much that locals fear it will block fire engines from getting through and on to sidestreets.

Community Board 11 has called on the city Department of Design and Construction to rip up the four-foot-wide sidewalk running along the south service road.

While not likely to get much pedestrian traffic, the new sidewalk complies with guidelines for the partly federally-funded project.

Residents were shocked to find the four-foot sidewalk installed between Williamsbridge and Eastchester Road, slicing four feet from their street.

David Stevens, a dentist and resident of the area for 25 years, said the public was never informed about the sidewalk until they saw the cement being poured.

“The sidewalk is placed in the road, it is very obviously a problem,” Stevens said.

Stevens said he was there when the FDNY did a test run with firetrucks along the road, and “they literally were unable to make turns down the side streets.”

“People were running to the street and scrambling to move their cars because they thought the trucks were going to hit their cars,” he said. “It was chaos.”

Stevens said he is extremely concerned for public safety and emergency vehicles, because even a car parked eight inches away from the curb instead of four inches away could block off the roadway.

“It’s extremely dangerous, they are splitting inches and every inch makes a difference at this point,” he said. A petition with over 700 signatures calls for a change in plans for the $30 million project.

At the Community Board 11 meeting Thursday, April 26, assistant district manager John Fratta said the FDNY never signed off on the plans for the new sidewalks.

He added that he left angry over the lack of official response from the DDC after an April 9 public meeting with DDC officials.

He said DDC told the board before work began that the roadway would be narrowed to 26 feet on one side of the street, which they claimed to be the average width of a roadway.

“What did we know? We listened to them,” he said. “Then we were made aware of the public’s concern for safety.”

The board has now called on the FDNY to run another safety test along the narrowed roadway, using their biggest truck.

In the previous test, Fratta said “We started at White Plains Road, and we had the FDNY bring out their biggest vehicle.

“We had them go through the roads and make turns. It was tough, but it was doable. It started to become a problem once we hit Williamsbridge Road. The truck could no longer effectively make turns.”

Fratta said the board was told that it was necessary to widen the sidewalks because the federally funded project must adhere to federal standards, and meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

But he added that also seemed to merely be a suggestion. “This is dangerous, the road is too narrow,” Fratta said. “What we are going to ask of the city is that they go back and tear up the sidewalk – no matter how much it costs.”

He estimated the “blunder” will cost about $17 million to correct.

“The ball is in their court now,” he said.

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