Bridge revamp causes commuter parking headache

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It’s a problem that rarely relents in an area where parking already is scarce. And some residents whose daily grind requires snagging a spot say a bridge project in Spuyten Duyvil isn’t making things any easier.

In fact, Liz McNamara says it’s become nigh impossible for her to park at the nearby Metro-North train station lot thanks to cars, McNamara surmises, belong to construction workers assigned to an extensive $86 million revamping of the Henry Hudson Bridge.

But the spots aren’t limited to just the train station, she adds. Workers appear to also be nabbing premium locations along Edsall Avenue and other surrounding streets, all of which circumscribes Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park.

“It hasn’t improved,” McNamara said. “If anything, it’s gotten worse” since the beginning of May. And it might be a while before there is any improvement — work rehabilitating the bridge’s upper- and lower-level roadways is expected to take 19 months.

For years, commuters have relied on many of the precious spots now being occupied by workers, McNamara said. Each morning, she  rides the train to Grand Central to work her executive assistant job in Manhattan. Even arriving at the Metro-North station 45 minutes early, McNamara risks not finding a spot.

 “I think they must have more workers there,” McNamara said. “At first it wasn’t too bad. I had to get there maybe by 7 to park. Now I get an earlier train. 

“We’re fighting for spaces. I don’t know how many people have a lot of time to drive around in the morning looking for a spot when they’re trying to catch a train.”

But the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it’s doing all it can to ease commuter parking pain.

“We make it a priority to ensure that our operations don’t negatively impact the surrounding residential area, and we will continue to work with the local community to address any concerns they may have,” MTA spokesman Christopher McKniff said. “We have also advised our contractors to carpool and avoid parking in the location immediately adjacent to the station.”

Regardless, Metro-North does not have a customer-only parking lot at the Spuyten Duyvil station, according to MTA officials, adding the streets are city-owned and free for anyone to park there.

Some residents had griped about Palisade Avenue, where the project temporarily eliminated around a dozen spots, construction foreman Alberto Videl said. But construction workers are making efforts to park at least a block away because of the flood of complaints, even though the streets are public.

Yet, “they’re still mad at us,” he said.

Meanwhile, the bridge’s piers must be fixed. 

“The concrete’s just ripped. It’s turning to nothing, dust,” Videl said. “We’re replacing them because they’re rotting away.”

Videl’s crew regularly pauses to allow easier passage of buses transporting non-driving commuters to the station to ensure they don’t miss their trains.

“I got a guy here every day washing the street down,” Videl said. “I have another flagger cross the people over, walk them to the train station. We have signs all over the place. We’re trying.”

Furthermore, Videl’s crew works in sections to minimize impact, he said, adding the company holds a permit to shut down a part of the street between 10 a.m., and 2 p.m. 

Still, Riverdale commuter Jonathan Yepez says parking has increasingly become a challenge since around March. Yepez sat on the platform awaiting his late morning train June 11 after nabbing a spot on Edsall. “Super lucky,” Yepez said, and far from the norm.

“It’s almost impossible to get a spot now,” he continued. “Usually I try to avoid Mondays or Wednesdays, because that’s when alternate side is.” Otherwise, “I try to leave a good 20 minutes early to try to find a spot.”

Before, it was “five minutes, no problem. If you didn’t find (parking) here, you’d find it down the street. Now half the street is taken up, just blocked off.”

If construction workers are avoiding parking there, Yepez isn’t seeing it.

“I see plenty of vests in the windows,” he said. 

There’s no panacea for the parking problem, yet the work must be done, said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who looked into the issue after receiving complaints. The community did receive plenty of notice, he added, and MTA even removed some of its materials, asking workers to park away from the area immediately surrounding the work site.

“It may not be as good as we’d like, but I believe that the conditions have improved,” Dinowitz said. “I don’t blame people for getting upset. Parking is one of those things that can drive you nuts. I think part of the problem also is people don’t understand why it seems like work on the Henry Hudson Bridge has been going on forever. It’s really annoying and inconvenient for people, but it’s necessary. And when it’s all over, things will be improved.”

“Jobs start, jobs end,” construction worker Kasia Wysowski said. “You’ve got construction people working here. They’ve got to park someplace. MTA wants to get this done. It is what it is. Trust me, if I didn’t have to be here for work, I wouldn’t be here.” 

And until this job ends, it seems commuters must weather the inconvenience.

“I’ve noticed a number of people, they’re catching an earlier train now,” McNamara said. She arrived for her train even earlier than usual on June 6, around 6:40 a.m., to find just three spots open around the station. She snagged one before two other cars immediately took the others.

“That’s really kind of early for those spots to be filled up,” McNamara said. “And I’m not moving back to an earlier train. That’s quite early enough.”

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