And just like that, a congested shortcut will become a positive, safe space for the community.
In the next few weeks the Department of Transportation will close traffic on a portion of Mead Street, from White Plains Road to Unionport Road, and close a section of Unionport Road, from Mead to Victor streets.
The roadways will be sectioned off, paved over with a special kind of asphalt and turned into a green space with about a dozen large planters.
According to officials with the DOT, the small portion of Mead had become a dangerous shortcut that motorists used when White Plains Road was congested. Removing access to cars will help alleviate the congestion and decrease the number of accidents in the area, officials said.
For Bernadette Ferrara, vice president of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance, taking out this portion of Mead Street, which separates the Van Nest Playground from Memorial Square, will give residents a taste of what to expect when a playground expansion project begins.
“It might attract more people to the park so they can walk around in it,” she said. “I’m not sure what the end result is going to be, but one thing this will show the community is that it is going to be okay to expand the park.”
Once the greenery is in, Ferrara said the VNNA will be filling the planters and taking care of them.
“We’re going to try to get the children of the community involved in planting and maintaining the planters,” Ferrera said. “The planters are huge, so we’re not worried about people stealing them.”
The only negative Ferrara said could come from the project is the removal of about seven parking spaces.
“They’re kind of at a premium right now, but we’re focused on the park because it’s the heartbeat of the community,” she said.
Councilman Jimmy Vacca said he is glad the project is happening because it will not only alleviate traffic problems, but also represents an unofficial first step in the expansion and beautification of the park, a project which he and other elected officials have been trying to start for several years.
“DOT’s plans address traffic safety concerns while expanding Van Nest Park at very little cost,” he said.
“Together with the $450,000 I secured along with Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Councilman Joel Rivera for a total park renovation, this improvement will being to give Van Nest residents the park they want and deserve.”