Enthusiasm Builds for Slow Zone as DOT Stonewalls on Bronx Park Safety Fix

Residents of the Bronx’s Norwood section have long dealt with missing sidewalks and crosswalks on the street encircling Williamsbridge Oval Park, the neighborhood’s central green space. After getting stonewalled by DOT’s Bronx Borough Office, neighborhood leaders are now hoping a Slow Zone application will get DOT to take action.

DOT's Bronx Borough Office has not been receptive to calls for crosswalks and sidewalks around Williamsbridge Oval Park. Photo: ##http://goo.gl/maps/nt0RW##Google Maps##

Since 2009, advocates have been asking for basic improvements that would slow speeding traffic and make it safer for people crossing to the park. “They’re narrow streets and yet, it’s amazing how fast people will go around it,” said Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, who recently helped secure a Slow Zone for nearby Riverdale.

Instead of a long-term solution, the neighborhood has received piecemeal fixes: a striped buffer at the intersection with Bainbridge Avenue, which drivers have learned to ignore, followed by a fresh coat for existing road markings that had faded away. A speed hump was installed at the request of Council Member G. Oliver Koppell in July 2012, while crosswalks and a sidewalk remain elusive.

In August 2012, fed up after the borough office had failed to make progress, Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval sent a letter to Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan asking her to intervene and deliver the requested safety improvements.

On January 23, DOT and Community Board 7 hosted a forum to discuss potential fixes for intersections next to the park. DOT staff spoke about temporary solutions, such as painted curb extensions and chicanes, but not crosswalks or sidewalks. The agency says it is processing feedback from the workshop and will have a proposal for the community board in the future. DOT did not provide a timeline for the proposal.

Meanwhile, enthusiasm is building for an application to DOT’s Slow Zone program, which would lower the speed limit to 20 mph and introduce traffic calming measures to the neighborhood.

“Over the years, we have made different requests of DOT,” said Dinowitz. “I would like to look at it in a more comprehensive fashion, although the Oval is at the center of what we’re trying to do.”

Tomorrow, Dinowitz will host a meeting with NYPD’s 52nd Precinct, Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval, and other neighborhood groups to gauge interest in a Slow Zone. Last week, City Council candidate Cliff Stanton issued a press release trumpeting his support.

If there is interest, Dinowitz said his office would put together the application, gathering letters of support from other elected officials, community groups and the community board.

In the absence of action from the borough office, including Williamsbridge Oval in a citywide program like Slow Zones could be the neighborhood’s best chance at securing pedestrian safety improvements.