street fight

Missing Crosswalks on Busy Bronx Avenue Spur Safety Concerns

Traffic zooms past an unmarked crosswalk on Morris Park Avenue in The Bronx, June 21, 2019.
Traffic zooms past an unmarked crosswalk on Morris Park Avenue in The Bronx, June 21, 2019. Photo: Ese Olumhense/THE CITY

It’s known as one of the busier and more dangerous strips of roadway in The Bronx. So why has part of Morris Park Avenue gone largely without key road markings, like crosswalks and other road lines, for more than two months?

Councilmember Mark Gjonaj (D-Bronx) has been asking since May 3, when a State Supreme Court judge imposed a temporary restraining order to block the thoroughfare’s reconfiguration by the city Department of Transportation.

Gjonaj joined as a plaintiff in the case, vying to stop DOT’s proposed “road diet”: left-turn lanes, a median zone and other engineering moves intended to more tightly control traffic and discourage speeding.

Now, with the Morris Park Avenue layout in limbo, part of a prime commercial strip in Gjonaj’s district is left with more hazards than before. Crews already had repaved about a half mile of the strip before the judge’s decision, covering existing crosswalks and lane lines in the process.

On Friday, Gjonaj fired off a letter to the city’s Law Department, demanding that transportation officials restore the road markings.

“DOT has created a dangerous environment and conditions for motorists and pedestrians,” Gjonaj wrote. “Due to the DOT’s lack of action, each day, drivers and pedestrians that use Morris Park Avenue are and will continue to be placed in danger because of unmarked roadways.”

As of Friday, many of the missing markings had not been replaced — almost nine weeks after they were removed, and seven weeks after the DOT lawyers contacted lawyers for the plaintiffs to discuss restoring the lines that had been there before, according to Gjonaj.

“If DOT really cares about the safety of pedestrians and motorists, they should at least put back the road markings,” said Gjonaj. “There are complete crosswalks that are missing.”

And if the residents of Morris Park can’t get a “good answer” from DOT on why the streets have no markings, Gjonaj said, then “somebody needs to go.”

‘We Will Fight This’

In an email, a DOT spokesperson blamed the lawsuit for the lack of street markings.

The agency completed repaving on Morris Park Avenue from White Plains Road to Bronxdale Avenue on April 23, the spokesperson, Alana Morales, said in an email to THE CITY. Workers laid down a temporary yellow double line down the center of the roadway on May 6, she added.

But the judge’s order, she noted, halted the rest of the work. By filing the case, Gjonaj and his fellow paintoffs “have stopped DOT from enhancing the safety of the corridor,” Morales wrote. “We will fight this in court and expect to prevail.”

On Monday, a department spokesperson stated that lane markings and crosswalks will be restored this week.

THE CITY observed multiple drivers speeding on the half-mile strip Friday evening. Area residents said the crosswalks were badly needed.

“Of course they should have the crosswalks,” said 83-year-old Arthur Bier, fresh from grocery shopping.

“It took them forever to put down the (center yellow) lines,” he added, gesturing toward the intersection of Morris Park and Wallace Avenues, not far from where he’s lived for 40 years.

Mary Jane Medina and her boyfriend, Noel Betancourt, both 19, agreed new crosswalks are a must, especially with the advent of summer — and more children on the streets.

“It’s very, very important to have at least the crosswalks,” Medina said as the couple dined at Primavera Pizza on Friday.

Plan Includes Bike Lane

The road diet, as proposed, would divide the existing east and west-bound travel and parking lanes, each 30 feet wide, into four pieces each: nine feet for parking only, five feet for a bike lane, 11 feet for vehicles and 10 feet, shared between the two sides, for a dedicated turning lane. Neither a bike lane nor a turning lane exist presently.

Before-and-after renderings of city plans to reconfigure Morris Park Avenue in The Bronx.
Before-and-after renderings of city plans to reconfigure Morris Park Avenue in The Bronx. Photo: NYC Department of Transportation

Gjonaj joined business owners and others in the community in heated opposition to the city’s safety plan, which some said was forced upon them without opportunity for meaningful input.

According to DOT, more than 300 people, most of them in vehicles, were hurt on the strip, between Adams Street and Newport Street, from 2012 to 2016. Some 26 people were severely injured. Last August, a motorcyclist was killed at Morris Park Avenue and Van Buren Avenue.

Transportation officials have said the Morris Park Avenue proposal would minimize speeding and dangerous conditions on the roadway.

The “diet” plan has worked elsewhere in the borough, Morales said — noting a 24% decline in crashes and 54% reduction in injuries on Burke Avenue since a 2014 redesign.

Updated to reflect Department of Transportation announcement Monday that lane line and crosswalks will be restored.

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