Have a look up the narrow pathway connecting Arlington Avenue and Kappock Street in Spuyten Duyvil and one might see a steep trail of hideous, uneven pavement snaking between warped side rails bent out of shape. It’s like something out of a Gothic fairy tale.
On a recent, pleasantly warm October evening — before the first frosts of the season make the slope even more dangerous to traverse — some residents braved the pathway.
“I’m young and I don’t have much of a problem, but I’m sure a lot of people do,” said Joe Kiyanga, who works as a local contractor. “I’m sure people have slipped in the winter.”
“What a shocker,” said Vera Vermann, with just a trace of sarcasm, when told that local residents had long complained about the passage’s condition to city officials. “The path is horrendous, and it’s been like this for years. The city moves at a slow pace. You’d think we’ve given them enough of our tax dollars, but you cannot pay them as fast as they pocket our money.”
The path between Arlington and Kappock has not been ignored, however. At least not by public officials. The problem is, there isn’t much that can be done about it — at least not immediately.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Councilman Andrew Cohen have renewed a two-decades-old request to repair the pathway in a letter to the city’s transportation department.
The main impediment stopping DOT from fixing the pathway, it seems, is uncertainty regarding who owns it. The Bronx borough president’s office hasn’t stated who’s responsible for the area in question — whether the city or the adjacent buildings — according to a recent press release from Cohen’s office.
No one from Ruben Diaz Jr.’s office returned multiple requests for comment on it either. But in a recent letter to Dinowitz from the borough president’s office, topographic engineer Chris Luo said that as far as he could tell, the city doesn’t hold title to the pathway.
Cohen and Dinowitz both maintain that because the public uses the pathway, the city should be responsible for its upkeep.
“When I first got into office (in 2013), the pathway had very deep holes in it and the railing was broken,” Cohen said, adding that DOT has filled potholes and repaired the railing in the past.
“It’s been patched up, it’s been cobbled together,” Cohen said. “And every time that we complain, they put a Band-Aid on it.”
But these partial improvements aren’t enough, Cohen said. He wants the issue resolved once and for all, and he’s confident DOT can — and should — repair the pathway.
“It’s clear as the nose on my face that this belongs to the city and the city should take responsibility,” Cohen said, “I think the only reason they haven’t is they don’t want to spend the money. And that’s unacceptable.”
Dinowitz expressed similar frustration, pointing to his own recurring efforts, dating back to the 1990s, to get something done.
“We’ve gone back and forth for years,” he said. “The buildings don’t own the area, but the city claims it doesn’t own it either. So essentially they’re saying nobody owns it. So I guess that means I can go there, plant my flag, stake a claim, and take ownership of the property.”
Unfortunately, Dinowitz said, all too often nothing gets done until after somebody gets hurt, or worse. “And that’s just not how government should work, so we need to do something now.”
Indeed, the DOT recently announced pedestrian safety improvements to a section of Kappock Street between Henry Hudson Parkway East and Netherland Avenue — including new crosswalks, concrete work, new signal phasing, and better access to several MTA bus lines. That comes, however, after the site already was the scene of six injuries — two of them pedestrians — according to a press release from DOT.
But transportation officials have not been forthcoming about the Arlington/Kappock pathway. DOT borough commissioner Nivardo Lopez wouldn’t speak to The Riverdale Press.
DOT assistant press secretary Alana Morales, however, did offer something as to why the pathway has been neglected, despite repeated calls from the community. Basically, Morales said, DOT would first have to verify it owns the land, and then would have to start the rather arduous process of planning and completing a reconstruction plan.
Until then, residents like Dorothy James don’t have much of a choice. Despite the pathway’s poor condition, she continues to use it.
“I live down the road and walk on (the path) to get to Riverdale sometimes,” she said. “It’s challenging, especially when it’s slippery. But I’ve never complained. I just go up and down.”