Pelham Parkway community concerns linger about ‘phase two’ reconstruction

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj (c) speaks before a Community Board 11 and NYC Department of Design and Construction on the Pelham Parkway Phase 2 Design Update public meeting on Wednesday, May 25.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

City officials formally presented details for the second phase of Pelham Parkway’s reconstruction, but the community still has lingering concerns about the plan.

Community Board 11 and the NYC Department of Design and Construction held a public meeting at New York Institute for Special Education on Wednesday, May 25, providing an update on the forthcoming reconstruction of the west-bound roadways.

CB 11 took issue with the city’s preference to remove an unnamed road between the westbound service road and main roadways just west of Williamsbridge Road and return it to green space, per a NYC Parks Department request.

“(It) is the big issue that is still up in the air and we are not going to bend on the unnamed street,” said John Fratta, CB 11 administrative manager, adding

Instead, the city maintains that the 200-foot long street is an ‘unauthorized’ incursion through parkland, as officials claimed on May 25.

But Fratta said that if that is the case, CB 11 is ready to advocate for parkland alienation where the road is situated. Alienation requires approval of the state legislature, he said.

“We are not going to vote on that project until that street is secured,” he said. “We are in the process of discussing alienating parkland (with Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj and Senator Jeff Klein).”

In a statement, Klein agreed that Pelham Parkway’s ‘unnamed’ road must remain and that the parkway’s tree-lined lanes must be preserved.

Another major concern regarding the project are the number of trees that will have to be removed during construction, a point that Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance co-founder Joseph Menta discussed.

“New York City has not quantified the amount of trees that are intended to be removed due to disease…or to make way for utility installation,” said Menta.

The preservation group is against any parkland alienation for the installation of unnecessary sidewalks or structures, but is in favor of keeping the unnamed roadway that has been in use for nearly a century. PPPA is especially concerned about the fate of one of the last large elm trees that graces the parkway, near a bus stop the city wants to enlarge, at Williamsbridge Road and Pelham Parkway, said Menta.

Many of the parkway’s elm trees fell victim to Dutch Elm Disease years ago.

“If this were Manhattan, that tree would stay,” said Menta. “No doubt.”

Dr. David Stevens raised objections about a plan to narrow the Pelham Parkway North service road and install sidewalks along the parkway side of the street. He called the plan “atrocious.”

Stevens challenged the city’s claim that it must narrow the roadway in order to meet Federal Highway Standards. He also took exception with the city’s 2015 insistence that sidewalks need to be installed wherever cars park.

“That’s totally erroneous”, he said.

A DDC spokeswoman stated that Phase 2 of the project includes a new trunk water main, a select bus service lane, dedicated left turn lanes and (wheelchair) accessible sidewalks and ramps.

“The city is committed to address the community board’s concerns and will continue to work collaboratively to develop the next steps for the proposed plan,” stated the DDC spokeswoman.

Raphael Schweizer of the Bronx Park East Community Association said that overall the project will have positive benefits in terms of better drainage by the parkway and improved driving conditions.

However, he added that as was the case with the eastbound side of the project, the city is continuing to make avoidable mistakes.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
This ‘unauthorized road,’ linking Pelham Parkway North and the main westbound roadway beyond Williambridge Road could be removed at the Parks Department request. There is community opposition to the idea.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

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