PELHAM PARKWAY — A group of Bronx residents is demanding the city remove a sidewalk constructed on a portion of Pelham Parkway South they say dangerously narrows the street, making it difficult for emergency vehicles to get through.
The new sidewalk — installed by the city in April on a service road on Pelham Parkway South, between Williamsbridge Road and Wilson Avenue — makes their street so narrow they have trouble pulling out of their driveways, the residents said. They filed a lawsuit against the city last week and held a rally Monday night where dozens turned out with signs, and even a fake coffin, blasting the project.
“It’s like a sidewalk to nowhere,” said William Madonna, an attorney for the group. “People don’t walk on there.”
The new sidewalk was one part of a larger, ongoing $36 million reconstruction project on Pelham Parkway, which includes improvements to the roadway’s sewer system to fix a chronic flooding problem that’s long plagued the street. As part of the project, the city also opted to install new and upgraded amenities, according to a Department of Transportation spokesperson, including crosswalks, water mains, curbs, fire hydrants, street lights—and sidewalks.
But neighbors say there was no need for the new walkway, which was installed alongside a grassy traffic median next to the parkway, which sees little foot traffic.
“If you open a car door when you’re parked on the side of the road, there’s barely any room for the cars to pass,” said Dr. David Stevens, who owns an orthodontist practice on Pelham Parkway South and Narragansett Avenue. He said the sidewalk, almost five-feet across, is particularly troublesome because the service road sees a lot of traffic, since it leads to nearby Jacobi Hospital.
“Ambulances come down this road all the time, fire trucks come down this road, there’s just not enough room for all of this to operate,” he said.
The group — calling themselves Concerned Citizens of Pelham Parkway South — say the Department of Transportation and the Department of Design and Construction never informed them about the sidewalk during planning meetings about the Parkway’s reconstruction. Now, they say they either want it removed completely or re-constructed so that it’s built using space from the unused grassy median, instead of the street itself.
“Not once was it mentioned that they were going to take four feet away from the existing street,” said Fran Aceto, 48, who has lived on Pelham Parkway South for 18 years, and says she now has trouble backing her truck out of her driveway. “Now with the winter coming, when those plows come down, what’s going to happen?”
A Department of Transportation spokesman said the width of the street — now about 25-feet across, according to the lawsuit — is comparable in width to thousands of miles of other streets in the city, and poses no problem to fire trucks or other emergency vehicles.
But residents said they watched FDNY trucks make test runs on the blocks where the new sidewalks were installed, and that the vehicles had trouble turning onto the street. In an affidavit with the groups’ lawsuit, FDNY firefighter Ed Brown, the Bronx trustee for the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said the narrowed roadway is a threat.
“It is quite clear that an emergency fire vehicle cannot fit through this area,” Brown said, according to the lawsuit. “The fire department will not be able to save lives when it is called upon.”
In an e-mail, FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer said the department has conducted tests and found the streets are still accessible "with additional parking regulations in place from the Department of Transportation," which added no parking signs on the corners "which allow greater access for making turns."
But neighbors say they shouldn't lose parking spaces over what they see as a planning mistake on the part of the city.
“They didn’t do their homework,” said 58-year-old resident Elio Morales. “They just went ahead and did it.”