It’s a sidewalk that was 10 years in the making


The city’s design and construction department is finally proposing a massive renovation to West 254th Street, running from Riverdale Avenue all the way to the Metro-North station. The design department’s presentation to Community Board 8 this month detailed the plan to completely rework the street.

SAR Academy is located at 655 W 254th St. Its principal, Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, said the street renovation is long overdue.

“We have been in touch with the mayor’s office and the transportation department, and they’ve all been very responsive,” Krauss said. “We worked with them on the temporary sidewalk that was arranged. It’s something that the school has been advocating for quite some time.”

A long time indeed, the initial conversations with Riverdale residents complaining about the roadway date back as far as 2010 according to Dan Padernacht, former Community Board 8 traffic and transportation committee chair.

“When SAR first proposed changes to the main building in 2010, that’s when we first started talking about the West 254 Street sidewalk,” Padernacht said.

Padernacht said a formal resolution was written up in May 2017. Meeting minutes show the committee discussed asking the city transportation department to install a sidewalk from Riverdale Avenue to Palisade Avenue on West 254th Street.

In the original proposal, the committee was only requesting a sidewalk be built on one side of the street, the north side running along the front of SAR’s property. Padernacht said, at the time, SAR agreed to pay for its portion of the sidewalk.

Padernacht said, in both his time as chair of the committee and since then, he has not yet seen a project that utilizes homeowner land acquisition.

Krauss said, although SAR has not been asked to fund the sidewalk this time, “we have offered to do anything we could to help move this forward.”

In November 2023, temporary improvements were made but they were never meant to last. A pathway was designated along one side of the street running past SAR and flexible delineators were added to designate where pedestrians should be walking. Full-stop intersections and new crosswalks at the intersections of Sycamore Avenue and Independence Avenue were also added.

While SAR has been vocal about its support of a sidewalk in this area, Krauss said the school was originally working with the previous mayoral administration on this project

The currently proposed improvements include sidewalks on both sides of the street, trees along the walkway, adding plantings, adding street lighting, and signage. The ramps and crosswalks will also be ADA complaint.

At present, despite the temporary adjustments, the street is still torn up throughout most of the strip, missing sidewalks and curbs.

“You’ve got kids walking to and from school and you’ve got people walking to the Metro North and it’s a narrow street especially if it’s raining or dark, it’s scary,” Krauss said.

The city’s design plans also address West 254 Street’s issues with wind with poor visibility, making foot travel even more difficult.

The city’s plan will also address sewer and water main conditions. The water main was installed in the 1920s and, according to the city, is showing its age. Manholes and sewers along the strip display cracks and visible defects, and a number of the sewers have been designated as undersized. The plan for the sewer and water main will involve replacing the sewer for a portion of the street and installing new catch basins and other infrastructure for capturing storm water.

A formal study into how the project will affect the flow of traffic in the area has not yet been done.

According to the city’s design department, $9.8 million has been allocated to fund the project, though officials anticipate the cost could increase as the project progresses.

One of the challenges the city admits to facing throughout this project will be the process of land acquisition. The road is already fairly narrow and, with the size of the sidewalks proposed, officials believe they’ll have to cut into some private property to complete the full renovation.

“The city engages in a legal process to appropriately alert property owners of impacts to their specific properties,” a spokeswoman for the design department said.

“DDC also offers in-person and virtual meetings for individual homeowners to ask questions and discuss the project impacts. We will continue to have a presence on-the-ground throughout the duration of construction once work starts.”

For Krauss, the project can’t start soon enough.

“I think that we all agree that commuters and students need to be safe and the truth is, at the community board there hasn’t been opposition,” he said. “We’re simply interested in knowing that our kids can walk up to Riverdale Avenue and be safe.”|

While the city’s design department clarified it is only in the beginning stages of sharing the proposal with impacted communities, the plan does include beginning construction in autumn of next year. In May, officials should have finalized design plans and will begin the process of reaching out the community on the project and any necessary land acquisition. Outreach to the community will include the required 30-day comment period.

West 254th Street renovation, infrastructure improvement, pedestrian safety, SAR Academy, community board, transportation department, city design plans, land acquisition, construction timeline.