The approval of controversial traffic flow changes on a Morris Park artery has community leaders contemplating legal action.
A one and a half mile NYC Department of Transportation traffic calming and safety project – otherwise known as a ‘road diet’ – was approved for Morris Park Avenue over community objections in a decision made public on Thursday, December 6.
Morris Park Community Association vigorously opposed the plan for the road diet, and Community Board 11 voted overwhelming not to support it when it was first proposed.
Nevertheless, DOT will proceed with its plan for the corridor as it was originally proposed in January, with the current two travel lanes in either direction reduced to one from Melville Street in Van Nest to Newport Avenue in Morris Park.
The plan should be implemented in spring 2019, with roadway line painting installations taking approximately one month depending on weather, stated a DOT spokesman.
It calls for the creation of left-turns bays and a flush median in the center of the roadway and dedicated bicycle lanes, and would ban southbound left turns from Unionport Road.
Al D’Angelo, MPCA president, said that the road diet is just something that the association cannot accept.
“(DOT’s) argument is that it cuts down on accidents,” said D’Angleo, who said he expects there to be traffic tie ups and delayed emergency vehicles on Morris Park Avenue.
He added that he expects traffic “to slow to a crawl.”
The MPCA will consult with an attorney to look into possibly taking the city to court to seek an injunction against the plan, said D’Angelo.
D’Angelo also said that he expects small businesses and local shoppers who park along the commercial corridor to be impacted.
The MPCA had a well-attended town hall meeting on Wednesday, November 28, with almost all present opposing the road plan.
At that meeting, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez and Councilman Mark Gjonaj all said they would support the community in their opposition.
“I, alongside other elected officials in the community, have been against the establishment of the road diet,” said Fernandez. “However, our protests fell upon deaf ears; it is incredibly frustrating when the community’s input is asked for but then ignored.”
“The administration’s insistence on pursuing a road diet of Morris Park Avenue, despite intense community opposition, is just a continuation of the ‘City Hall knows best’ approach we’ve all become accustomed to,” said Gjonaj, who added that he will work with DOT and the community to come up with a solution that doesn’t harm quality of life.
MPCA’s petition effort garnered over 1,000 signatures opposing the DOT plan, said D’Angelo.
According to DOT, from 2012 to 2016, there were 317 injuries on Morris Park Avenue in the road diet area, with 26 of them rated serious.
“The city made the decision to move forward with this design because it is the one that offers the greatest protection to the largest number of street users,” said a DOT spokesman. “This redesign will reduce speeding, facilitate safer left turns, make pedestrians more visible to drivers and minimize double parking on a retail corridor.”
DOT statistics show that traffic calming doesn’t significantly increase travel times, and by decreasing double parking, maintains traffic flow despite having one fewer lane, the spokesman stated.
Amril Hamer, Bronx organizer for Transportation Alternatives, an organization that promotes pedestrian safety, said that she was glad that DOT decided to go with its original plan for Morris Park Avenue, as it had gone through several iterations over the past year.
“They should keep in mind that we are thinking about the safety of the community,” she said.