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Riverside Boulevard is Upper West Side's Road to Nowhere

By Leslie Albrecht | October 29, 2010 7:19am

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — Riverside Boulevard is a road to nowhere.

The Upper West Side street, an eight-block street south of Riverside Drive, which runs parallel to the West Side Highway from West 64th Street to West 71st Street, is supposed to connect to West 72nd Street. But it's closed to traffic by orange barricades and concrete barriers — even though the intersection was finished five months ago.

"I'm not sure why it's taken so long," said Ricardo Martinez, concierge at the apartment building that faces the unused intersection. "People ask, when is it going to be open?"

When it's finally open, drivers will have easy access to the West Side Highway at West 72nd Street. But for now it's a dead end. On a recent visit, DNAinfo saw several drivers making abrupt U-turns when they realized the road was blocked.

Extell Development Company owns Riverside Boulevard, and says the connection will open after the city takes ownership of the street. That will happen after the street clears final inspection with the Department of Transportation, which is scheduled for next week, said Extell spokesman George Arzt.

The street was ready for final inspection in May, said Arzt, but an inspector raised concerns that "expansion joints" on the road that could become trip hazards. It took until August to resolve the issue, in part because two different divisions within DOT had different opinions on how to fix the expansion joints, Arzt said.

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal called on the city this week to get moving on taking over the road.

"Denying residents the ability to take advantage of the infrastructure that’s been invested in this location is pointless at best," Rosenthal said in a statement.

DOT referred questions about the ownership transfer timeline to Extell.

But that's not the only piece of unfinished business on Riverside Boulevard.

Residents say they're also waiting for traffic signals on the street. They say cars routinely speed through the traffic-light free strip.

"There are stop signs, but I think people ignore them," said Michelle Chung, a parent at Woodside Preschool. Employees at the school take children across Riverside Boulevard every day to play in Riverside Park.

Teachers hold up stop signs to try to slow cars, but a school employee said he's seen near misses between cars and children because drivers who zip through the neighborhood "totally disregard" stop signs.

Shai Waisman, a father of 1-year-old twins, who lives at 240 Riverside Boulevard, says he and other concerned residents have been fighting for traffic signals for almost a year.

Community Board 7 and City Councilwoman Gale Brewer have joined Waisman in his effort, but the campaign has fallen on deaf ears, Waisman said.

He says similar streets such as West End Avenue and Sutton Place on the Upper East Side have traffic lights at every block. Extell says it conducted a traffic study that showed there weren't enough cars driving on Riverside Boulevard to justify signals.

Extell also says it can't install traffic signals because the signals wouldn't comply with the original city-approved plan for the street. If the developer violates that plan, the city might not accept ownership of the street, Arzt said in an e-mail.

Waisman said he's doubtful about that claim.

"They're somehow suggesting that if you make the street safer, the city won't approve it – which is of course, totally illogical," Waisman said.