Community Board 8 can't ignore DOT over Broadway any longer


(re: “Residents give Bronx cheer to new Broadway traffic plan,” June 1) 

I am writing to voice my strong support for the city transportation department’s plan to renovate Broadway. I support each element of the plan, including narrowing travel lanes, adding bike lanes, re-making intersections, and narrowing pedestrian crossings.

DOT has developed tremendous expertise in the past decade working on its “Complete Streets” and “Vision Zero” initiatives, which can dramatically improve public safety and the business environment. I’m dedicated to these initiatives as an environmental lawyer and advocate for local businesses and Van Cortlandt Park. 

But more importantly, I’m dedicated to them as a father who is scared about my child’s safety as she crosses Broadway, Riverdale Avenue and Mosholu Avenue. Thousands of others are in my shoes as they navigate these unsafe streets to reach the park, schools, houses of worship, and shopping. 

Kudos to the DOT for recognizing the legal and moral imperatives to act to protect pedestrians, bikers and drivers alike. There are certainly ways to improve the plan, and DOT is exploring them.

I’m also writing to express my deep legal concerns about the way Community Board 8’s transportation committee has approached this first draft plan for Broadway. New York law provides the community board with an advisory vote on DOT plans — yes, no, or yes with modifications. In voting on its own plan for Broadway, has the transportation committee effectively ceded its vote?

How is DOT to weigh ad-hoc proposals from board members against the advice of traffic engineers, particularly after the appeals court’s recent decision in Turturro v. City of New York, where DOT is liable for failure to redesign known unsafe streets.

Is it ethical for a board member to use his or her position on the board to organize community opposition? I’m told that a particular board members hands out a community board “business” card in soliciting opposition testimony to disfavored projects.

Moreover, if this occurs, what weight should DOT give to this testimony?

I placed a call recently to a senior staff member of the Prospect Park Alliance, a role model for efforts to rebuild Van Cortlandt Park. In 2011, a group of Park Slope residents organized opposition to DOT renovations of Prospect Park West to include fewer traffic lanes, a bike lane, and shorter crossing distances. Sound familiar? 

The opposition led to a lawsuit by two community organizations. Those organizations dropped the lawsuit late last year. Why? Because the new conditions on Prospect Park West have proven to be better for walking, biking, parking and driving.

I can only hope for the same result the next time I take my 2-year-old daughter in my arms as I cross Broadway, Riverdale and Mosholu avenues must be next.

The author is chair of Friends of Van Cortlandt Park.

Christopher Rizzo,