Rollercoasters can be fun, so long as they’re within the confines of state fairs and amusement parks. But when they’re outside a nursing home, the adrenaline rush seems to suddenly disappear.
When Daniel Reingold drove to work at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale on a recent morning, he found several work trucks outside the facility’s Palisade Avenue entrance. And when the senior care facility president left that evening, the trucks were gone. But in their wake were four new speed humps.
No one told Reingold anything about the speed humps, or even asked whether it was a good idea. If they had, city transportation officials may have thought twice about installing them, especially with how the humps might rob emergency vehicles of vital seconds that could literally mean life or death for the hundreds of souls who call Hebrew Home, well, home.
“I certainly understand the concerns of the community, to be sure that people are observing that 25 mph speed limit,” Reingold said. “But one of (the speed humps) is literally at the front entrance to our campus. One would think that they would’ve reached out to us and have had some conversation.”
Because of the older population the Hebrew Home serves, ambulance traffic along Palisade is fairly common. Those vehicles need to move quickly in times of crisis — something that’s now especially difficult to do on a street like Palisade, with these four speed humps added to its name.
“The concern is that we have frail, elderly people who are coming in and out of our campus in ambulances and ambulettes. And even at a very low speed, this is very disorienting and disruptive to them,” Reingold said. “The patients who are coming in and out to the hospital have expressed real discomfort with it.”
Speed humps aren’t intended to cause discomfort, but instead to slow traffic, according to Community Board 8 traffic and transportation committee chair Dan Padernacht. But there have been no known complaints about speed on Palisade — a narrow, winding street that runs parallel with the Hudson River. And no one stopped to tell Padernacht about the impending speed humps, either — something DOT normally wouldn’t install without community input.
“I don’t know if this is something that came from downtown that the Bronx DOT office was unaware of, or slipped through without somebody notifying the community board,” Padernacht said.
It’s not that the city agency hasn’t been talking with the community board. In fact, Bronx DOT commissioner Nivardo Lopez had consulted with a working group exploring options to curb reckless driving on Independence Avenue.
Yet, the Palisade Avenue work never came up.
“I don’t know what DOT’s current policy is when it comes to advising the community board about changes to the roadway, traffic devices or parking restrictions,” Padernacht said, noting these are protocols that seem to change often. “This is something that might’ve slipped through the cracks.”
But it’s not an isolated incident. Less than a year ago, DOT turned an oddly laid-out intersection involving West 238th Street, Orloff Avenue and Fort Independence Street into a three-way stop, where previously only one stop sign existed. That change, done just blocks from where Padernacht lives, created confusion for many drivers for weeks afterward since there was no warning the stop signs were being added, and they were difficult to spot.
The stop sign for Fort Independence was run six out of 10 times in a single hour observed by a Riverdale Press reporter at the time. Cars coming from the other direction didn’t fare much better.
Reckless driving — especially drag racing — is a persisting problem on a few of the community’s streets, among them Independence Avenue. Over the summer, speed bumps were reinstalled on Independence in an effort to address the racing, although some neighbors said it had little effect.
But CB8 never received reports of reckless driving or drag racing on Palisade, Padernacht said, so he’s not really sure why speed humps — especially four of them — were installed there.
“Based on the location of the Hebrew Home, on its face, it does not seem to be a good idea to put a speed bump right there,” said Padernacht, who first learned of the speed humps from a reporter.
A DOT spokeswoman said there wasn’t much of a mystery here — the agency simply received a “community request” to install speed humps along Palisade. DOT commissioned a study, found it would be feasible, and sent out trucks.
DOT shared few other details on who made the request, or what other neighbors — like the Hebrew Home — were consulted.
Palisade is not without its problems, Reingold admits, especially the lack of light after the sun sets. There’s definitely a need for caution, but speed humps were not necessarily the answer to that need.
“We remind our staff all the time about being a good neighbor and driving carefully,” Reingold said. “There’s definitely a need for cars to go slowly and carefully. I just wish we had an opportunity to discuss the various possibilities so our residents wouldn’t be so negatively impacted by it.”
Not only does it slow down ambulances, but it could make for a very bumpy ride for residents who might not respond well to such movement.
Reingold isn’t sure what his next steps will be. But he hopes in the future, DOT might at least pick up the phone and call before moving forward with other major changes.
“It’s not up to me to say whether they should be removed or not,” Reingold said. If “we had an opportunity to at least discuss the issue and discuss different alternatives, it would have been more helpful.”