Meet the man working on a plan to ease the East Bronx’s transition to the Metro-North expansion.
Arban Vigani, a 25-year-old graduate student at Hunter College, joined Community Board 11 this fall as a “Planning Fellow.”
His task is daunting: study how the proposed Metro-North stations would change life in Parkchester and Morris Park.
He expects to make a presentation with recommendations by May.
The proposed plan —which depends on netting around $500 million in state funding —is meant to shorten commutes by connecting trains from Penn Station to new platforms in Hunt’s Point, Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-op City.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and other elected officials want the funds allotted to the MTA and the service, called Penn Station Access, up and running by 2019.
Vigani’s role is to objectively analyze how the plan would affect main stakeholders. He’s been surveying local businesses and community groups.
“I want to know how, for example, the increased foot traffic would affect businesses within a 1,000-foot radius of the proposed sites,” he said.
Vigani said that while nearly all of the locals he’s spoken to support the project, gripes remain.
Chief among them is the lack of allotted parking in Metro-North’s current plans.
He’s also looking at how the MTA might reroute bus lines that today pass through the proposed sites.
“I think my duty here is to look at the shortcomings,” he said.
CB11’s “Planning Fellow” is one of 20 graduate students spread out among the city’s community boards in a program run by The Fund for the City of New York.
The Fellows have been influential. Last year, a graduate student working with Community Board 10 published a traffic plan that claimed to smooth congestion as new shopping centers come in along I-95 between Co-op City and the Whitestone Bridge —without building any new roads.
Vigani hopes that the stakeholders, both local and in Albany, will take his report into account before the state’s next Capital Plan budget decides whether or not to make room for the expansion.
Until then, he’ll keep commuting back and forth four times a week from his home in Ridgewood, Brooklyn to the east Bronx.
He says he’s fit in just fine in Morris Park, which like Ridgewood boasts a large Albanian population.
Vigani emigrated from Albania to the border of Brooklyn and Queens as a teenager.
He was drawn to the order and discipline that urban planning provides. Albania’s government underwent a fundamental transition in the early nineties that often meant the streets of his native Shkoder were chaotic.
“There were many challenges that weakened the government back then,” he said. “I’m happy to live in a city where the streetlights work.”