Neighborhood Divided Over Traffic Barriers
By Robin Jovanovich
Slowing traffic down, especially in residential neighborhoods, is always a good goal. Parents put up signs and strategically position little green men barriers on streets so that their children can play and ride bikes in relative safety, and for the most part drivers slow down when they see little people, real and plastic. But when barriers are erected limiting access to certain streets, which will push traffic out to their neighbors’ streets, safety takes a back seat to controversy.
Several years ago, in response to the news that the former United Hospital property on High Street and Boston Post Road had been sold and a major development was planned, residents of Rye Park (Evergreen and Grandview avenues, Hillside Road, Ridge, Cedar, and Elizabeth streets) became keenly interested in the details, attended Port Chester planning review meetings, and made a full-court press to City of Rye officials to come up with a traffic mitigation plan during what was expected to be a multi-year construction project.
The neighborhood formed the Rye Park Steering/Traffic Committee and, in 2017, started working with Mayor Sack and his administration on an action plan, according to Richard Smith, a longtime Evergreen Avenue resident and a member of the Committee. “Our goal was to come up with the best way to protect the whole neighborhood, but the Council election interrupted the process.”
In early 2018, the Committee met with the newly elected mayor, Josh Cohn, to start the process again. As a traffic mitigation test, the Council agreed to put up temporary barriers, but not until school was in session. So, in October of last year DPW installed gates on both Evergreen and Grandview, where they remained for a six-week period.
The gates were not embraced by the entire neighborhood, however. A number of residents on other Rye Park streets, particularly Hillside and Ridge, were alarmed that traffic would be diverted to their streets.
In January of 2019, the Committee circulated a survey to the 65 homeowners, asking them if they thought the installation of barriers would make the streets safe. “The feedback was overwhelmingly positive,” said Smith.
Shadid Malik, who lives at 60 Ridge Street, said he never received the survey. Further, he told the paper that during the temporary barrier trial period traffic backed up on Ridge Street and Hillside. Malik asked Rye’s Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee what history there was of individual street closures. The Committee knew of none.
Meanwhile, in the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee’s recent proposal to the Council regarding potential mitigation, they make four recommendations: install gates on Evergreen and Grandview; paint a double yellow line down Hillside to slow traffic down; add additional traffic mitigation on the southern ends of Evergreen and Grandview; and monitor neighborhood streets afterwards, especially the intersections of High and Ridge and the five-way intersection at Purchase/Wappanocca. They made a specific point that the gates must remain open until the first construction permit is pulled.
“I don’t think barriers are the way to go,” said Malik in a recent conversation.
He pointed to a traffic calming study Rye Country Day School conducted in 2013. One of the study’s conclusions was that closing off Grandview and Evergreen would “deteriorate the traffic performance on the adjacent road network.”
The City of Rye hired Maser Consulting to conduct a traffic studies to evaluate the impact for that area in 2016 and again in 2018. In a draft memorandum dated January 2019, the report states, “Measures such as full or partial street closures are more drastic and may have other potential legal, emergency service or other percussions and would have to be reviewed by legal counsel and other municipal department heads, as well as the City Council.”
The United Hospital property has been sold again, this time to Rose Associates and Bedrock. No plan has been put forth yet, but Rye Park neighbors as well as Councilwoman Julie Souza were at the Village of Port Chester trustees meeting on Monday night because the project was on the agenda.
At the Rye City Council meeting Wednesday night, Hillside Road resident Marc Bruffett, cautioned on doing any further mitigation yet. “We should not act on fears. The Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee has submitted a proposal, ostensibly to mitigate the impact, but the proposal is flawed. Gates would not reduce volume, just redirect it. Alternatives to gates need to be considered.” He added, “When the City implemented the test, I literally couldn’t get out of my driveway. Our proposal is the same as Maser’s — to hold off on this one size fits two streets proposal.”
Richard Smith said his and the Committee’s primary intent is to get the City to commit to an approach to traffic mitigation. “The real point is safety. There will be an additional 1,000 cars a day going through our neighborhood, trucks carrying tons of rock, and everyone expects that there will be cut-through traffic.” He added, “It doesn’t make sense to wait five years to do something.”