Getting into Fieldston this weekend won’t be easy.
For a 24-hour period beginning at 3 p.m., on Friday, the community will close its private streets, keeping delivery trucks, non-Fieldston traffic and unannounced visitors out of the community. At least with their vehicles.
During that time, traffic will be forced to access the community through West 246th Street and the Henry Hudson Parkway, or Broadway and Post Road. The restrictions are designed to minimize heavy traffic on the streets that serve more than 200 homes, and where residents are responsible not only for their streets, but the sewer systems below as well. The closing is intended to reduce damage to the streets and the sewers.
According to Hannah McAllister, who up until recently served as the managing agent for the Fieldston Property Owners Association on behalf of Robert E. Hill, Fieldston actually closes its streets once a year. However, because McAllister no longer works on the property, she told The Riverdale Press she couldn’t provide further comment.
First Service Residential, the new company managing the association, would not provide The Press details about the streets closing.
The only details coming out publicly about the street closing appears to be in a letter from First Service to homeowners informing them about the efforts. Only authorized vehicles and visitors will be allowed on the roads — cars that have the appropriate Fieldston resident sticker.
Delivery trucks also will have access, so long as they provide a proof of delivery to a Fieldston residence.
Residents planning to have multiple guests this weekend have to let security or the new property manager, Jim Hayden, know.
But that doesn’t mean emergency vehicles can’t get through, if needed. Ambulances and police squad cars will continue to have unlimited access to Fieldston, although those agencies were notified of the streets closing, according to the letter.
Protecting the streets is one of the larger concerns the Fieldston Property Owners Association faces, at least according to what officials told The Press in 2013. Back then, some 4,300 vehicles passed through the private community each week, according to then president Brendan Contant.
While closing streets for a single day might not have a significant impact on preserving pavement and sewers, it does serve to remind outsiders that the streets inside Fieldston are not public, Contant said at the time.
Yet, there might be a more obscure reason for closing the streets: A direct effort to ensure these private roads remain private.
It’s a legal concept known as “adverse possession,” which could cause someone to lose private property if they don’t make an effort to restrict its use. Being able to claim adverse possession of someone else’s property is complicated — and requires a lot of time. But still, one way to show “dominion” over private property like streets is to shut them down.
That’s what Lever House does in Manhattan, according to a 2011 story in The New York Times. Every year since 1953, the classic building that helped define modern skyscrapers on Park Avenue closes its courtyard and interior sidewalks to the public. Those areas are also filled with small plaques that designate the area private property, making it clear that public access is done only by permission of the owner.
While Fieldston officials won’t confirm that’s the reason behind this weekend’s closures, a number of private streets and courtyard areas typically open to the public typically close for a day each year to ensure adverse possession doesn’t come into play.
In previous years, street closures at Fieldston were more frequent. In January 2014, for example, the community closed its streets for a week as a way to encourage school buses to find detours around the community, and off the private streets.
“Bus companies experience turnover with personnel at the end of every semester, and it’s important for the (association) to delineate our boundaries and set the precedent of each semester so that the drivers become familiar with alternative routes,” Contant wrote in a letter to residents at the time.
At least one Fieldston neighbor didn’t like the street closings in 2013. Todd Rubinstein, who lived on Tibbett Avenue bordering the community, said at the time he was forced to take a circuitous route around Fieldston to not only get to work, but also to vote in the primaries at Manhattan College.
“It makes me want to sell my house and get the hell out of this community, because I don’t have access to the community,” he said. “The point of living in Riverdale is you have access to certain things.
Rubinstein did just that in 2015, selling the home he owned since 1987 for $718,000, according to property records.