First came the long stretches of previously unpaved roads. Then one complaint became the first drop in a bucket, filled by a torrential downpour of protests.
It’s as if we’re on the road to nowhere, and stuck in a purgatorial loop — and it’s right where Kappock Street and Palisade Avenue meet.
It all came to a screeching halt — at least as much as Community Board 8 can stop it — Dec. 16 when its traffic and transportation committee came out against the city transportation department’s plans to upgrade Kappock and Palisade.
What’s ironic is DOT is trying to undo some of the work they did to the intersection previously — work neighbors claim has increased flooding risks exponentially for their buildings. Especially after last summer’s storms.
“What we have proposed is that we will remove substantial concrete from the center of the extensions,” DOT spokesman Keith Kalb told the committee head of the vote. “We would be shaving back the curb.”
Traffic committee chair Deb Travis, however, pointed to a list of proposals offered by DOT’s first deputy commissioner Margaret Forgione, in an effort to juggle pedestrian, cyclist, driver and residential needs.
“The concerns were really about the curb cuts,” Travis said. “And whether the curb cuts were going to be adequate for draining the water toward catch basins.”
Heeding the flood of complaints, DOT planned to cut back and realign the curb on the north island on both the east and south sides of the intersection. To continue calming traffic and turning vehicles, DOT is considering installing center channelized pavement markings and “quick curb” — a raised median divider with mounted panels.
But if DOT was hoping for support from CB8, they were disappointed. Instead, Travis’ traffic committee said no. That doesn’t necessarily derail planned upgrades at the Spuyten Duyvil intersection, but if DOT does move forward, it will have to do so in spite of CB8.
Instead, Travis and other neighbors around the Kappock and Palisade intersection simply want that stretch to be restored to its original condition, which they say had much better management of stormwater runoff.
The curbs were originally expanded in October 2019 in an effort to improve pedestrian safety following complaints about how wide the roadway was. While some neighbors say they’ve seen fewer speeding and dangerous driving manuevers at the intersection, a new enemy has cropped up: heavy rain.
Two storms last summer — including the remnants of Hurricane Ida — brought a reckoning of record rainfall. And flooding, too — like at 2727 Palisade Ave., where Mary Serri lives.
“As you know, the building has been flooded twice,” Serri told the committee. “How do you propose to stop rainwater coming straight down the street?”
Kalb did admit the “substandard sidewalk and curb on that side of the roadway” was indeed a contributing factor to the flooding. At the same time, however, he also called Ida a “once-in-a-lifetime situation.”
The remnants of another storm — Elsa — also left 2727 Palisade with water where it shouldn’t be. And that was before what was left of Ida blew into town.
But because Ida dropped so much water into the neighborhood in such a short time, the low curbs were compromised, Kalb said and therefore flooded.
“We don’t think (the flooding) was caused by the improvements that we made,” he added in defense.
But DOT came ready with a proposal anyway. If all goes well, the city anticipates water will follow the curb line toward two catch basins near the eastern side of the intersection.
“With the realignment of the curb on the western side of the street — on the co-op side — and the raising of that sidewalk and curb,” Kalb said, “all of those things together will minimize the water flow.”
Bioswales or green space to catch additional stormwater are also options being considered. If not bioswales, DOT may propos installing porous pavement along all sides of the curbs.
But who will pay for it all? Outside of planned work by Con Edison the cost of fixing the sidewalk and curb will be the co-op’s responsibility.
One owner at 2727 Palisade, Miguel Hummel, sees two problems with DOT’s proposal. One is with the catch basin, which he called “essentially useless at this point,” although he supported the addition of bioswales or porous pavement.
His other issue is with the DOT expecting the co-op to foot the bill.
“They are the ones that caused the damage directly to the building,” Hummel said. “And I don’t even live in that building.”
Forgione, at least as far as the co-op is concerned, acknowledged in November the sidewalk adjustments would come at the city’s expense. But it’s not clear if that is indeed the case.
What is clear — at least to some residents — is that this is not even a Band-Aid to fix the problems they say DOT created in the first place.
“The crux of it is that this plan will not stop our building from flooding again,” Serri said. “We have a financial interest in getting this fixed, and DOT is just deaf to our needs.”