Bronx Park Group Presses DOT for Commitment to Ped Safety Fixes

In the Norwood neighborhood of the Bronx, there are no crosswalks connecting to the central public space, Williamsbridge Oval Park. Much of the street that surrounds the park even lacks sidewalks. Fed up with what they say is inaction from DOT’s Bronx office, local residents are now appealing to the top with a letter to Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan [PDF].

With no crosswalks to Williamsbridge Oval, and no sidewalks on much of the street surrounding the park, local families often end up walking in traffic. Photo: Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval

Anyone trying to access the park, including students from nearby M.S. 80 and kids going to the playground, must navigate Reservoir Oval. The street has no clear place to walk or cross the street. “People generally believe this is just an accident waiting to happen,” explained Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval member Jay Shuffield.

Requests for pedestrian safety improvements leading to the park from Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval and Bronx Community Board 7 date back to 2009. And this March, Bronx Borough Commissioner Constance Moran met at Williamsbrige Oval with members of the friends group, staff from Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz’s office, a representative from NYPD’s 52nd Precinct, and Community Board 7′s District Manager. In a later email, Moran committed to a pedestrian safety study and said she would update the group on the study by early August.

Advocates were looking to focus initial improvements on the intersection most in need of attention, at Holt Place, while aiming for a comprehensive study of pedestrian access along the Oval. The study’s results could then be used to implement longer-term pedestrian improvements.

In July, a speed hump requested by Council Member Oliver Koppell in April 2011 was installed. In addition to the study, Moran said road markings that had faded would be repainted.

Since then, there has been little action from DOT, say advocates, who are still waiting for the promised early August update on the study.

A DOT spokesperson said the agency is undertaking a study of the intersection of Reservoir Oval and Holt Place and will present its recommendations when the study is complete. In addition, DOT said it is “working on a comprehensive plan for safety enhancements along the length of the Reservoir Oval.”

Park advocates report that the Williamsbridge Oval process stands out compared to other DOT projects in the area, where the agency engaged neighborhood residents. Noting that “community members have been able to talk directly with the planners and engineers” working on the Congested Corridor Study for nearby East Gun Hill Road, Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval are asking DOT staff to meet with them to discuss options for Reservoir Oval. “A firm date is important,” said Shuffield, “so that this doesn’t continue to get kicked down the road for another few years.”