Community leaders in Morris Park are gathering petition signatures to permanently eliminate Morris Park Avenue from a proposed ‘road diet’ plan because the road’s safety record has vastly improved since the last time a study was commissioned .
The controversial plan, if implemented, would reduce the number of travel lanes for vehicles along most of the length of the busy street as part of the larger, citywide Vision Zero traffic safety plan.
This is the second petition undertaken by community members opposed to the project.
They have already garnered over 700 signatures, according to the group that rallied against the NYC Department of Transportation proposal outside Big Deal Supermarket on Morris Park and Paulding avenues on Monday, April 1.
Councilman Mark Gjonaj, who organized the rally, said that in 2018, 1,000 petition signatures were collected to express the community’s strong opposition to the proposal.
“All stakeholders have been opposed to this,” said Gjonaj, citing opposition to the Vision Zero initiative from local business owners and residents alike, as well as at a town hall meeting hosted in November 2018 by the Morris Park Community Association.
Both sides of Morris Park Avenue are lined with mom and pop stores for its entire length and these shops get deliveries all day long.
Also the roadway is heavily used by emergency vehicles destined for Jacobi Medical Center and Montefiore Hospital.
Gjonaj said the plan, which was opposed by Community Board 11 and would reduce the number of travel lanes along the busy roadway in each direction from two to one while adding a vehicle turning lane and bicycle lanes, would be another nail in the coffin of the 200 small businesses in the area.
Bronx Chamber of Commerce’s president, Lisa Sorin, said that after a year of meeting with local businesses, the chamber concluded that implementing a ‘road diet’ would be harmful to the Morris Park small business community.
Business owner Robert Ferrito of RMF Electric, said that based on the Vision Zero initiatives he has seen implemented around the city, he believes the proposal would back up traffic by constraining it.
“I think it will add more congestion to the commercial corridor,” said Ferrito.
Additionally, Al D’Angelo, MPCA president believes that traffic will spill onto the residential side streets as motorists try to avoid the Morris Park Avenue bottleneck, creating unsafe conditions for area youngsters and disturbing the relative calm of those tree-lined blocks.
He pointed out that other than Gjonaj, it doesn’t appear that city officials, including Mayor de Blasio, appear to be listening to the will of the community on the issue.
Staggering the avenue’s many traffic lights would dramatically slow down traffic on Morris Park Avenue, he offered as another option to the road diet plan.
A 2-mile stretch of Morris Park Avenue from Eastchester Road to East 180th Street is included in theDOT’s road diet plan.
Recent data collected by the city agency indicated that injury-related accidents have decreased on the main thoroughfare.
Morris Park Avenue, which is now safer for pedestrians then previously studies indicated, should be delisted as a Vision Zero priority corridor, said the councilman.
While the latest facts support Gjonaj’s sentiment, a DOT spokesperson said there is still a speeding problem on Morris Park Avenue.
“There have been a number of high profile fatalities and/or crashes on the corridor in the last few years – including a motorcyclist fatality at Morris Park Avenue and Van Buren Street in August 2018 and an incident in April 2018 where a vehicle drove into a restaurant and injured three people,” stated the spokesperson.
“This plan will help save lives,” she pointed out, while defending the DOT’s push to make the road diet a reality.