Riverdale underpass falls under radar


Flooding and streets caked with mud after a heaving rain or snowfall. Broken tree limbs laying around. Litter scattered along the hilly portion of the wooded area.

Those are some of the concerns residents shared about the underpass and overpass at the Henry Hudson Parkway East and Manhattan College Parkway near West 242nd Street.

“Welcome to ‘no man’s land,’” said David Sondheim, who lives near the underpass and attends the nearby Young Israel of Riverdale synagogue one block away. “You come back here on days where we have rain, and this whole sidewalk is covered in mud. The puddle goes at least to the middle of the road.

“From the sidewalk, 15 to 20 feet out … it gets pretty deep. It doesn’t drain anywhere. I think the mud and the leaves block the sewer.”

When the sidewalk gets muddy, icy or snowy, it’s not cleaned up, Sondheim said, making it difficult for people to walk there.

“This is an Orthodox synagogue. People are Sabbath observant,” he said. “They don’t drive, but people walk over here to get there. It just makes it difficult,” said Sondheim.

Sondheim contacted 311 — a number used to report non-emergency issues in order for the city to make repairs — but it did him no good. Without a specific street address, 311’s computer system could not register the complaint.

Although the street was mostly clear toward the beginning of the month, a light snowfall on March 10 changed that. While there was no heavy flooding, the street near the curb on the Henry Hudson side was caked with mud, running the width of the car in part of the area.

The Press returned two days after the March 14 snowstorm. The sidewalk and staircase were shoveled, but the underpass sidewalk remained untouched.

On the Manhattan College Parkway side, portions of the street were uneven and there were potholes filled with water near the sewage drain. Val Balaj, who also lives near the underpass, said cars are parked in the block for sometimes months because there is no alternate side parking. That results in the area not being cleaned.

“You can see the dirt that accumulates all over the place,” Balaj said. “When that’s neglected, you get all of these bugs, all these rodents and everything else coming out of the sewers.”

Balaj pointed to a nearby sewer drain. “I have been here for almost 20 years. That has never been cleaned out. Ever. I know when it floods here, my basement starts to flood also.”

When it comes to snow removal, Joshua Stephenson — the community liaison for Councilman Andrew Cohen — said while streets are plowed, sidewalks are typically left unattended because they’re not connected to properties where homeowners might be out shoveling. After a snowstorm, the office contacts Fedcap — an organization Cohen funds through a grant from his office — to arrange for snow removal on the steps .

Michael Heller, chair of Community Board 8’s traffic and transportation committee that oversees underpasses and overpasses, said he was not aware of any residents reaching out to him about the problems in this area.

However, he added his committee would look into it.

When it comes to making a complaint with 311, an operator there told The Press residents should call the sanitation department for cleaning, and the parks and recreation department for fallen tree limbs. Flooding and sewer complaints, the operator added, should be directed to the city’s environmental protection department.

But that information is news to the people working in those different departments. A parks spokesman, for example, told The Press it doesn’t handle tree removal in this area. A sanitation department spokesman said that while sidewalks do indeed fall under that department, woods and steps do not.

Instead, he said, those calls should be made to the transportation department.

The DEP responded to a complaint in this area as recently as last January. A spokesman said a catch basin — which catches debris from drains to prevent it from going in the sewer pipe — was cleared within 24 hours of the complaint, relieving some of the flood conditions there.

But even with trips like the one DEP made, these are mere Band-Aids, rather than the long-term solutions Sondheim said he’s seeking.

“Some study should be done of how it can drain better, how it can be cleaned,” Sondheim said. “It’s a nice little corner, but it’s filthy and muddy.”