The case of the purloined parking

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There’s a lot of unhappiness among those looking for a place to park along Hudson Manor Terrace. And it’s creating discord between those vehicle owners and the agency responsible for removing already scarce parking in the Riverdale neighborhood: the city’s transportation department.

DOT removed 14 parking spots between West 236th and West 239th streets late last month, all in an effort to install new crosswalks in the neighborhood.

While it might be safer travels by pedestrians, it didn’t stop 150 people from signing a petition calling for the removal of the crosswalks and reinstallation of lost parking. The petition calls DOT’s efforts to build the crosswalks “a hindrance to all of the residents and homeowners who rely solely on the street parking for our vehicles.”

But the crosswalks didn’t come out of nowhere. Last year, some neighborhood residents asked Community Board 8 to champion a crosswalk on Hudson Manor Terrace, which connects Manor Towers with Hudson Towers. By March, the DOT proposed enhancing crosswalks and painting curb extensions at the cost of seven or eight parking spots.

At the time, such a proposal wasn’t so bad, according to CB8 traffic and transportation committee chair Dan Padernacht. Spread over the three intersections, that amounted to only about two or three spots per block. But the final result eliminated more parking than DOT had proposed.

Enhanced crossings, according to the DOT website, receive special treatments that include high-visibility markings, pedestrian warning signs, and daylighting — the elimination parking on either side of the crosswalk, designed to improve sightlines between drivers and pedestrians looking to cross a street. Without daylighting, people waiting to cross the street may not be visible to motorists until they have already stepped onto the street.

But not everyone can get enhanced crossings. DOT requires areas with such crosswalks to have low vehicle traffic, calm streets, and be close to schools, parks and cultural centers.

There are two schools in the area, P.S. 24 Spuyten Duyvil and Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy. There are also two playgrounds, and, of course, Seton Park.

Yosef Kessler grew up at 250 Hudson Manor Terrace, and favors the new crosswalks, even if they cut down on parking.

“As a kid, walking across the street by yourself is one of the scariest things you can do,” Kessler said. “Running across the street, as a kid, you’re afraid of being hit by a car. It’s not something I want future generations of kids to feel.

“Safety should always come ahead of parking. It’s as simple as that.”

It’s not so simple for Councilman Andrew Cohen who believes parking could have been better balanced with pedestrian safety.

“I think the DOT could have installed the crosswalks, daylighted them, and I don’t think they had to remove all the spots,” he said.

Cohen says he is pedestrian-conscious, and knows parking is precious in Riverdale. There have been instances when he’s called for the removal of some parking, he said, like on West 235th Street and Oxford Avenue.

“It was not universally loved because it took away a little bit of parking,” Cohen said of the decision. “It’s very busy, very pedestrian, and it made sense. So I scored it. I think the crosswalks are important.”

Limited parking in Riverdale is a constant topic of conversation, and affected neighbors have an opportunity to make their voices heard now that they’ve had some time to come to terms with the change.

“We do not like removing one parking spot in this community,” Padernacht sad. “We know how limited parking is.”

The traffic and transportation committee is taking up the parking and crosswalk issue in the neighborhood again at its Oct. 17, according to Padernacht. He hopes to revive the original DOT presentation to see what was changed, and hear from the community what issues they’ve had. That meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., at Atria Riverdale, 3718 Henry Hudson Parkway.

A better solution, Padernacht said, may have been controlled intersections with stop signs along Hudson Manor Terrace for crosswalks.

“It’s a full traffic control, in the sense that the vehicle must come to a complete stop as opposed to yielding,” Padernacht said. “You don’t need to daylight at a stop sign, so you’re not losing the parking.”

Depending on community response, CB8 may recommend DOT revise its project. However, because the community board is only advisory, it’s up to the city department on whether it will take that recommendation to heart.

To paraphrase the late Flannery O’Connor, “a good parking spot is hard to find.”

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