Could the traffic problems at Kappock Street and Palisade Avenue finally be solved?
Community Board 8’s traffic and transportation committee chair Dan Padernacht believes he has the perfect way to make the meeting of those two streets safe, while making neighbors who live there happy at the same time. Now all he has to do is get the city’s transportation department to spend some more time on it.
DOT’s Bronx borough commissioner Nivardo Lopez dialed into Padernacht’s videoconference meeting March 18 to participate in a number of topics, especially intersection improvements in front of DeWitt Clinton High School. But when conversation shifted over to Kappock and Palisade, Lopez and the rest of his DOT team bailed from the meeting. That left Padernacht virtually “preaching to the choir” on the intersection that has been a battle zone between neighbors and DOT since last fall.
DOT had hoped to improve the three-way meeting of the two streets created from where Kappock meets the narrow and winding Palisade Avenue at an angle. DOT narrowed Kappock, using cement curb extensions, and adding what neighbors have called completely unnecessary crosswalks.
Some of these same people created the Coalition to Save the Neighborhood in late October, claiming the new extensions made the street too narrow on the south side of Kappock, making it difficult for cars and trucks to pass. Residents at 2727 Palisade Ave., said it’s become far more difficult to pull out of their driveway, because they don’t have the same kind of space and visibility they had before.
At last month’s traffic and transportation meeting, Padernacht presented a new proposal from a working group he assembled that would redesign the intersection, primarily by removing most of the curb extensions on either side of Kappock, while restoring three parking spots on the street.
“What we’re asking for the DOT to do is to leave their curbs in place along Palisade Avenue, but eliminate the concrete edges out there and replacing it with greenery while keeping the shortened crosswalks,” Padernacht said. “Essentially all the observations going into this is that there’s no need to have a crosswalk going north-south on Palisade Avenue. Most people are generally walking up the north side of Kappock or the south side of Kappock, and generally don’t cross on that part of the intersection.”
Richard Harrington, one of the neighbors who opposed DOT’s original project, praised Padernacht’s plan as one that fulfilled DOT’s original mission.
“What this does is fulfill the pedestrian safety issues which was the main reason DOT was doing this project in the first place,” Harrington said. “Looking at this, some of us are still a little concerned about the green space, but the fact is, DOT was concerned about pedestrian safety, and we feel this is a very, very good response to their concerns.”
Another issue created by the changes, neighbors said, is water running off the south side of the Spuyten Duyvil neighborhood intersection. Some feared that water, especially in colder temperatures, could become ice, making it dangerous for both pedestrians and vehicles.
“From a drainage standpoint, we’ve observed ice forming there,” said Lewis Wunderlich. “The water would congregate there right on the corner, forcing pedestrians out into the street.”
Lopez made efforts initially to help sell the intersection enhancements to neighbors, but waited until after the work was done in October to walk through the area.
Many of the neighbors were angry that DOT seemingly bypassed the community board when doing the project, adding that as another strike against it by those opposed. While the community board is not a decision-making body when it comes to work like this, DOT typically brings larger projects to the board’s attention before moving forward.
CB8 chair Rosemary Ginty said last November she found the fact people didn’t know about the project “distressing.”
“This community board office goes beyond what any office does in notifying,” Ginty said at the time. “We have our website, we have a Facebook page, we have Twitter. Over 1,000 people receive our email monthly, with meetings, agendas and all of that.”
Still, at the March meeting, Ginty had nothing but praise for the working group’s plans, even if it’s now in DOT’s hands whether to address it or simply ignore it.
“The group worked very hard and diligently,” she said. “It was a very, very good community effort. It is a great compromise. It beautifies the neighborhood while still recognizing the pedestrian safety issues.
“It’s like the perfect compromise.”