Boulevard of Broken Bones: Riverside South Residents Demand Traffic Signals
by Avi - June 17, 2010 at 12:21 pm -
An eight-block stretch of Riverside Boulevard doesn’t have a single stoplight, and residents there say it’s becoming one of the most dangerous streets in the city. Now, a dispute over who should pay for traffic signals and speed bumps has created a nasty menage-a-trois of competing interests involving the city and two of New York’s most powerful property owners.
Here’s the crux of the matter: the city says it’s Extell Development Company’s responsibility to maintain the street that fronts Riverside South, and Extell says it’s the city’s job. The Trump Organization, which is the managing agent for many of Riverside South’s condo buildings, has also gotten involved.
(A little background: Riverside Boulevard is a street that was created in front of the luxury condos planned for 59th to 72nd Streets overlooking the Hudson River. More than half of those condo buildings have been built and the last set of buildings are still in the public review process. Riverside Boulevard will eventually stretch from 59th to 72nd and connect with the Henry Hudson Parkway, but now runs from 72nd to 64th.)
Thomas Pienkos, the vice president of operations for The Trump Organization, spoke out about the traffic problem at a meeting Tuesday night about Extell’s plan to develop the southernmost parcel in Riverside South, known as Riverside Center.
“I am the person who gets the calls about near misses and mishaps,” he said at the meeting. “Traffic devices are a necessity.”
To be sure, Pienkos puts more blame on the city than on Extell. But Riverside South residents, about 700 of whom have signed a petition demanding traffic signals, are not as discriminating. In a letter they sent to both Extell president Gary Barnett and DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione this week, they basically said that Extell is callously disregarding the safety of their children.
“It is shocking to think that Extell would put such a minimal financial investment over the safety of the community that it itself built (and no doubt profited from handsomely),” the letter reads. “Nevertheless, while our resources pale by comparison to Extell’s, given the fact that lives are at stake, we immediately advised that we would assist in defraying costs associated with installing such traffic safety devices. Extell rejected this proposal as immediately as it was made and, again, without satisfactory explanation.”
Now it looks like the traffic issue could also effect Extell’s plans for Riverside Center, the 2,500-apartment development Extell proposes to build from 59th to 61st Street and the last piece in the Riverside South development puzzle.
“We oppose any development that does not address the existing and future safety of our community. We also oppose any proposal to connect Riverside Boulevard to the south-bound lanes of the Henry Hudson Parkway,” the letter says.
Speaking at the Tuesday night meeting, resident Shai Waisman said that “Riverside Boulevard should at least mirror Riverside Drive.”
City officials have basically told residents their hands are tied, the letter says.
“While elected and appointed officials have witnessed and acknowledged the dangers posed by the total lack of appropriate traffic safety devices on Riverside Boulevard, they have insisted that their hands are tied by the fact that Extell is the owner of Riverside Boulevard and that the responsibility falls to Extell,” it reads.
Pienkos says they sent a letter to the mayor’s office about a year ago and still haven’t heard back.
For what it’s worth (apparently not much) Community Board 7 demanded earlier this month that the situation be rectified and asked that a traffic cop be placed in front of Woodside Preschool at 67th Street and Riverside Boulevard. Supposedly, the city has agreed to place an officer, but that hasn’t happened yet.
We contacted numerous DOT officials on Wednesday for comment, but haven’t heard back.
Extell spokesman George Arzt sent us this response:
“Extell is aware of the community’s concerns about Riverside Blvd. Riverside was built according to a traffic plan approved by the City Department of Transportation (DOT). Also, Extell cannot, without the approval of the Department of Transportation, make design changes such as the addition of stop signs or traffic signals. And the Boulevard, as a bus lane, is not permitted to have speed bumps. We will continue, however, to work with DOT to address any safety issues that may arise.”
(Photos by Avi)