The Department of Transportation meant to install a breezy bicycle lane. Instead, the Grand Concourse south of E. Fordham Road has become a parking lot – thanks in part to space-hogging government vehicles.
DOT completed its reconfiguration of Grand Concourse service roads between E. 170th Street and Mosholu Parkway on July 8. Going north and south, it removed one of two travel lanes, installed a bike lane and retained a curbside parking lane. Similar changes on the Grand Concourse between E. 165th and E. 170th streets in 1999 resulted in fewer crashes and bike accessibility.
But the Grand Concourse is busy; 2488 Grand Concourse, for example, is home to the Fordham Road Business Improvement District, Assemblyman Nelson Castro, a pizza parlor, an office supply store, a jewelry store, four military recruiting centers and a bushel of small offices. According to the BID and Castro, the DOT reconfiguration has led to more congestion. Motorists now double-park in the bike lane, particularly motorists in government vehicles associated with the four recruiting centers, who also hog curbside parking spaces, BID executive director Wilma Alonso wrote in an email.
The government vehicles impede bike traffic and hamstring business. Shoppers deserve curbside parking, Alonso wrote. According to Castro, businesses are often ticketed for double-parking because there’s no room for trucks to load and unload merchandise. The government vehicles aren’t ticketed. Eight or more sit parked at the intersection during the day, Alonso wrote. Castro has noted five or six parked at a time.
“I remember the other day it was raining and I was running from a cab to my office,” Castro said. “There was a double-parked government vehicle and it was empty. When I came down two hours later, it was still there.”
U.S. Army recruiters do double-park at the intersection but only for a matter of minutes, Sgt. Gregory Alexander said. He and other recruiters are constantly on the move. Alexander agreed that the bike lane reconfiguration has led to more congestion.
“The bike lane is a good idea but you have everybody double-parked there,” he said. “Not just us – everybody.”
U.S. Army recruiters are constantly briefed on safety and protocol, Alexander said. Castro, who recently met with the BID and DOT to discuss the problem, admitted that parking is tight; the problem warrants a long-term solution. In the short-term, however, Castro thinks that the recruiters are to blame.
“They are the ones doing it,” he said. “They are the biggest perpetrators right now. They should park on Valentine Avenue and walk. They’re in the military. They’re supposed to be in good shape.”
Staples store manager Hector Mateo has noticed the problem but congestion is nothing new, he said. Most Staples customers and employees use public transit. DOT is willing to help clean up the mess, Castro said.
“It doesn’t look very good when the mayor is pushing transportation alternatives to have government vehicles parked in the bike lane,” Alonso said, adding, “And I haven’t seen one person on the Grand Concourse riding a bike.”