Consultants Propose Changes to Improve Safety and Accessibility in Scarsdale Village
- Category: On Our Radar
- Published: Wednesday, 10 August 2022 17:50
- Joanne Wallenstein
watch it here.
How can the streets of Scarsdale Village be made safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers too? And what can be done to enliven the Village Center? These were the subjects of a second work session on “Placemaking and Mobility,” led by consultants from FHI on Tuesday evening August 9, presented via Zoom to participants at Village Hall and online. The meeting was recorded and you can
Interest is keen in calming traffic, also expressed as slowing down drivers, among those who live and use the Village Center. Residents of the apartments on Popham Road, many who traverse the busy thoroughfare by foot, have often expressed fear that they will be hit by speeding drivers and motorists who whip around turns into crosswalks.
Making Scarsdale’s Village Center more appealing to retailers, restauranteurs and shoppers is also top of mind. With persistent vacancies in Village shops, revitalization of the downtown is a key concern.
The work session was segmented into two presentations, one on traffic and safety and another on proposals to make the Village Center into both a retail hub and a gathering place.
Popham Road Bridge and Chase Road
FHI Mobility Engineer Parker Sorenson presented a range of ideas for the changing the traffic flow on the Popham Road Bridge and at the intersection of Chase and Overhill Road to improve safety using an array of tactics.
Though Sorenson presented detailed maps and diagrams that you can see here, some of the concepts were easier to understand than others. Also, a compressed time frame forced the consultants to move speedily through their presentation making it difficult to fully explain the benefits of some of the proposed changes.
The consultants defined the goals of this phase of the work as follows:
-More organized driving experience
-Safer intersections with fewer potential conflict points
-Safer, more comfortable pedestrian crossings, especially at East Parkway and Popham Road
-Increased biking to Village Center businesses
-Safer access to Bronx River Pathway for residents
-Maintain existing vehicle capacity
You should review the documents yourself, but here are some of the proposed tactics:
-Creating a pedestrian and cycling path on the right side of the westbound bridge to make it easier for those on foot and on bikes to access the trail along the Bronx River.
-Creating an elevated off path cycle track to improve the bike trip to the Bronx River path.
-Creating shorter pedestrians crossings by bumping out the curbs to decrease the steps between curbs.
-Making crosswalks wider and more visible.
-Realigning the crosswalks to reduce their length.
-Adding signage to warn pedestrians at dangerous intersections
-Widening and narrowing of traffic lanes using “channelization.”
Commenting on the proposal, Trustee Ken Mazer, said, “If people could see the benefits of these changes that would give them confidence about making larger changes. Can we stage these changes into phases?” The consultants responded, saying they would provide medium and long term plans.
Lynne Clark explained that she recently moved to Popham Road. She said, “I am astounded at the speed of the cars going down Popham Road, 50-60 mph in a 30 mph zone. Why is there not a policeman there to slow the traffic down. I am terrified that there will be an accident there.”
Her husband Merrell Clark said, “When I want to cross from one side to the other of Popham and a car turns left from Chase Road and pays no attention to me – I get really angry.” Relaying a recent near miss he said, “If I was one foot further (in the crosswalk), I would be dead. I wouldn’t be here now.” He continued, “It’s the same on Overhill Road. They turn right – and some even accelerate when they see me. It is disappointing and threatening that a police car was parked there and did nothing.”
Lika Levi of Lockwood Road said, “Why are two important meetings being held in June and August. School is out and everyone is gone. Why are we holding such an important meeting in the dead of August? There are too many variables here. We need a person in Village Hall. It is too confusing.”
Ken Rilander said, “An important element is the time of day when you do your work. Anything related to our Village is different from 8-9:30 am than in the afternoon. Traffic in the morning can back up for a mile in the morning. The Village Center gets very busy around lunch time but is less busy in the morning in the afternoon. Traffic is also affected by commuters.”
Bob Berg said, “Holding a meeting in mid-August is absurd. I am underwhelmed by the consultants’ report. Blocking off Spencer Place is a mistake – we need access to it. Most of the traffic issue is just a matter of policing. Blocking off the street just creates obstructions.”
Madelaine Eppenstein said, “We have not considered restricting traffic and calming by lowering the speed limit to 25 MPH. It boggles the mind. A woman on East Parkway was tossed in the air by a left turning vehicle. East Parkway is a parking lot – there is parking on both sides of the road.There is no police presence. There are few crosswalks. As much delay as possible that we can offer our pedestrians is a smart thing to do.”
Jonathan Rothenberg said, “Were there commercial implications to any of these suggestions considered? How will it make the Village a better place to do business?”
Village Center Plan
Next the consultant’s turned to a discussion of placemaking for the Village Center. Adam Tecza defined their goals as follows:
-Reinforce the Village Centers East core
-Identify more new and different public spaces
-Make the Village Center more attractive
-Explore road closure and pedestrian spaces
They showed some of the schematics from their June presentation and suggested the following:
-Raised intersection on East Parkway and Spencer Place for to slow traffic
-New signage to identify that you are in Scarsdale and in the Village Center
-Different options for a permanent dining tent
-Moving the large clock to the closed plaza on Spencer Place
-A shared street concept so that the street can be closed down for events
Explaining their ideas, consultant said, This better matches the design to the current function of the street This street (Spencer Place) is now more of a parking lot than a street. Cars should have second priority in this space
They recommended that that the area that currently houses the dining tent become a new central meeting point with an upgraded tent, more flexible spaces, and better loading areas.
The further end of the street, alongside Boniface Circle, would also be closed to vehicular traffic and become Spencer Place Plaza.
In order to replace the parking space, Tecza suggested that Chase Road be restriped with twelve parking spaces and suggested additional parking tactics such as:
-Free short term customer parking
-Valet parking for long term visitors
-Free or discounted permits for business owners at Freightway lot
-Eliminating 8 hour parking on East Parkway
-Pick up and drop off on Depot Place
-Consistent parking metering
-Updated Freightway parking policies
-Additional bicycle parking
He presented an analysis of nearby shopping areas that are “automotive focused” and favor customers who need to drive. However he said the Village has great place and community characters, great identity and unique aesthetics, and he recommended that we “lean into our advantages and recognize “you can’t beat your competitors.”” He said, “When you invest you attract visitors and activate them.”
In order to facilitate more parking he suggested that Scarsdale “improve the connection between the Freightway parking lot and the Village Center. He said that the MTA was currently in the process of installing an elevator on the west side of the Scarsdale Train Station and building an ADA accessible route across the tracks to Scarsdale Village.
In response to community feedback on the first proposal, Tecza recommeneded the addition of traditional design elements such as paving that looks like cobblestone as well as historic style benches.
Commenting on the proposal, Susan Douglass, President of the Scarsdale Forum, spoke on her own behalf saying, “So many new ideas – I like the idea of the Spencer Place Plaza with contiguous space to Chase Park. With this huge amount of placemaking space – nearly as much acreage, or perhaps even more, than the rest of the Village Center, there is no need to take up the west side of Spencer Place with the Dine the ‘Dale tent. Rather, the tent (or a variation of this tent) could be moved to the new plaza. This allows for cars to proceed through Boniface Circle and then go straight down Spencer Place to the train station, with the ability to park near DiCicco’s and the other stores at that end of the street, and also drop off or pick up commuters.”
She continued, “Most Scarsdale residents drive to town. They cannot park at Freightway Garage to drop off or pick up their dry cleaning (carrying armloads of clothing for that distance), or groceries from DiCicco’s or heavy items. In addition, close-in parking is needed for seniors, families with young children, and people who cannot walk long distances. The merchants and their employees need to park off-site to free up these spaces.”
She concluded, “One of the biggest concerns is more parking. Moving the dining tent would free up parking spaces near stores. I like the family friendly events but want to be able to use the downtown for shopping and park there. Though we want the fancy stuff, we also want the ordinary stuff too.”
Ken Rilander said, “If you make it harder to get to the train, you’ll have a revolt. Many of us go downtown to do regular stuff. What you are suggesting would be great on the weekends – but will make the daily life of residents more difficult.”
Carol Silverman asked, “What is parking wayfinding? Also I didn’t know about the Metro North ADA accessibility. The consultants responded, “Wayfinding means signs to direct you to parking and the MTA is adding an elevator on the Depot Place side.”
Robert Berg said, “To the extent you want to make the Village Center available, you need to make parking available. Eliminating 12 spots is not the answer.” He continued, “You’re not addressing the elephant in the room… Rush Wilson… The Village should maybe exercise eminent domain. He has a failed vision. The Dine the Dale tent should be moved down to Chase Park so that you can open the street and make it seasonal – it doesn’t make sense in the winter.
Mayor Veron addressed Berg, saying “I believe the Scarsdale Improvements spaces are almost all filled.”
Next steps will be to review public comments, to present final plan and hold another public meeting in September.