Five feet from death

Dr. David Stevens leads protesters down Pelham Parkway South to demand city rip up the five-foot sidewalk it built along parkway service road. They claim street is too narrow for fire engines to reach fires.
Photo by Kirsten Sanchez
Photo by Kirsten Sanchez

What does taking five feet away from a 31-foot wide roadway equal?

To the fearful Concerned Citizens for Pelham Parkway South, it could equal death.

Now they’re suing the city to have a new unwanted sidewalk torn up that they say dangerously impairs fire engines and other emergency vehicles from getting through.

Their attorney, William Madonna, filed an Article 78 proceeding last week calling for the city to rip up the sidewalk and repave the street.

An Article 78 proceeding is used to appeal the decision of a state or local agency when administrative appeals have failed to correct the situation.

About 100 residents marched south along Pelham Parkway from Williamsbridge Road to Wilson Avenue on Tuesday, September 10 to protest the city Department of Design and Construction’s latest answer to their pleas to rip up an unwanted five foot sidewalk added as part of the Pelham Parkway Reconstruction Project and announce the legal action taken.

“We certainly have shown some wisdom when it comes to that sidewalk,” said protest leader Dr. David Stevens, a dentist with offices on the service road.

“The sidewalk to nowhere has to go. The median sidewalk in-and-of itself leads pedestrians or bicyclists to dangerous ends,” he said. “East to the ‘deadman’s point or Wilson Avenue is very dangerous if you are attempting to get to Jacobi Hospital, and west to Williamsbridge Road business district. That is the reason that sidewalk is the sidewalk to nowhere.”

In June, the DDC issued a statement saying the new sidewalks, running from White Plains Road to a block beyond Williamsbridge Road, comply with city standards and will not be ripped up.

City officials argue that even with narrower streets, FDNY fire trucks can still get through safely.

But opponents, including Community Board 11 and the Uniformed Firefighters Association, disagree.

Besides having to lose already scarce corner parking spaces so the rigs can make tight turns from side streets, the sidewalk makes getting to fires at hi-rise apartments lining the roadway just plain dangerous, they argue.

Their concerns include: tower ladders now have no room to extend their stabilizers to keep them from tipping while trying to reach hi-rise floors, and firefighters can’t reach their equipment when compartment doors become wedged in from cars parked on both sides of the narrowed street.

Residents feel their safety concerns have fallen on deaf ears, and have decided to make their voices heard.

Pelham Parkway resident Elio Morales said he feels the road is “just plain unsafe.”

“People think it has to do with parking but it’s really about the safety of the neighborhood. If someone is getting out of a car or double parks it’s going to obstruct fire trucks and plows.”

Senator Jeff Klein, a supporter of the Concerned citizens of Pelham Parkway South, also spoke during the rally.

“This is about the safety of our community,” Klein said. “DOT and DDC are just being pig headed, they are being bureaucrats. They are not listening to community or the study we did. A fire truck can not get through this narrow street. By spending a couple of extra dollars and making it right will go a long way to the safety of the community.”

Councilman Jimmy Vacca agreed. “The DDC did not design this project the way that they were supposed to,” Vacca said. “They have no right to call themselves a department of design and construction because they did get what they did right— they got it wrong. This was not supposed to be done they way it was done and when all the agencies said they made a ‘boo boo’ they said ‘Oh no, we did it right.”

“There is no question that Pelham Parkway needs to be reconstructed,” said resident Bob Nolan. “But what doesn’t need to be added is sidewalk on Pelham Parkway south which has made it dangerous for residents, drivers, and Fedex and other people who are dropping things off.” Organizations involved in the demonstration were Al D’Angelo of the Morris Park Community Association, Pelham Parkway Neighborhood Association, the Pelham Parkway Conservation Committee, and 80th Assembly District challenger Mark Gjonaj.

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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