City Councilmember Eric Dinowitz and state Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz, his father, are up in arms with the city Department of Transportation about transparency, regarding a proposed road redesign on Riverdale Avenue.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is scheduled to present a road diet proposal for Riverdale Avenue between West 254th Street and West 263rd Street on Thursday at the Community Board 8 Traffic and Transportation Committee meeting. According to the agenda, the agency is proposing to convert the four-lane traffic to three lanes with a bike lane.
According to the committee Chair Debra Travis, the redesign would create a designated turning lane as a method to slow traffic.
The Dinowitzes released a statement on Wednesday grilling the DOT for sharing the proposal with “a few hand-picked members of a local, unelected civic organization” instead of elected officials, accusing the city agency of cherry-picking who to engage with based on apparent support for the proposal in order “to put their thumb on the scale” at the March 31 meeting. The non-profit group, the Riverdale Main Street Alliance (RMSA) advocates for beautification, business advocacy and traffic safety. RMSA Chair Damien McShane, who formerly chaired CB8 and its traffic and transportation committee, told the Bronx Times on Thursday that it’s premature for the group to have an opinion.
But according to the Dinowitzes, DOT predicted RMSA would be in favor of the plan.
“Furthermore, it was communicated to us that the Bronx DOT actually asked this organization to come to the community board meeting, drum up support, and speak in favor of this proposal,” the joint statement said. “This effort to undermine what should be a good faith public conversation about how to make our streets as safe as they can be is unacceptable, and we are deeply perturbed that this may be an indicator of how the Bronx DOT intends to operate.”
McShane told the Bronx Times that he didn’t understand the Dinowitzs’ statement. He said the group engages with city agencies frequently, and he doesn’t know why DOT came to them before the board. He did point out, however, that Bob Bender, the community board’s vice chair, is also a member of the RMSA board, and that the group wasn’t trying to hide anything.
In response to the Dinowitzs’ accusations, DOT spokesperson Vin Barone sent the Bronx Times the following statement: “The DOT is encouraged by the elected officials’ enthusiasm to review our proposal to improve safety along Riverdale Avenue, which includes the addition of a new bike lane. We look forward to collecting feedback.”
The Dinowitzs said DOT had shared proposals with elected officials and community board members before presenting at meetings in the past. According to Travis, the committee chair, this helped community members come better prepared with questions.
The board asked DOT for the presentation “multiple times” and the agency has not provided it, saying it’s not the policy, Travis said.
“DOT has not been working in a collaborative way with the community board or the electeds on this project, but also on other projects, and that has really changed since the new acting Bronx Borough Commissioner (Keith Kalb) has come into play,” she said, adding that the board had a better relationship with DOT under former Bronx Borough Commissioner Nivardo Lopez, who Gov. Kathy Hochul appointed as deputy secretary for transportation on Nov. 1 2021.
The agency plans to do the work in May, not giving community members much time to react, she added.
Assemblymember Dinowitz wrote in his email newsletter on Friday that DOT showed him the plans over Zoom but would not share a physical copy.
Reach Aliya Schneider at email@example.com or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.