On March 9th, the Armour Villa Association hosted an informational meeting at West Center Church regarding the state of road repairs in our area, specifically the deterioration at the north end of Parkview Avenue. President Steve Wagner introduced City Engineer Paul Summerfield, representatives from both the Yonkers Department of Public Works and Engineering, Dan Crowley from Mike Breen’s office, and ET Theotokatos, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services.
The audience represented a good cross section of folks from the Armour Villa community. The meeting was in response to Steve’s work with Mike Breen’s office to identify our problem streets and address residents’ letters to the city about the perilous condition of Parkview Avenue. Mike Breen’s office subsequently put Parkview Avenue back on the list of roads scheduled for re-milling and re-paving. (It had temporarily been removed from the list due to an underlying drainage issue that would require such extensive remediation that it would undermine any temporary fix.)
Paul Summerfield spoke at great length about the challenges we face. Parkview Avenue is pitched west with a high crown in the middle, so water pools on the road surface rather than running off east toward the Bronx River. Complicating the problem is the fact that Parkview’s east side belongs to Westchester County and is part of the Bronx River Reservation area, a highly sensitive tract of real estate that is the first, and now historic, motor parkway in the United States. The recurring flooding from the Bronx River undermines both the roadway and some of the surrounding homes. On Parkview’s west side there are some steep slopes with private roads above the street so the city cannot perform remediation to the flow of water coming off those hills.
Summerfield said the city was going to try get funding to hire a consulting firm to do a comprehensive study of the Parkview Avenue corridor. Finding the money to pay for all the necessary drainage and remediation issues is a challenge. He estimated the consulting agreement alone could run in the vicinity of $200K, and the restoration project could run as high as a few million dollars. To further complicate matters, the city council has passed an ordinance that now requires sidewalks to be installed where they do not currently exist.
We learned that to obtain money through a state highway and road repair fund, the city uses a state-wide road rating system that allots money to municipalities based not only on ratings but on available funds already allocated for that year by the state legislature. As the fourth largest city in the state, Yonkers has a staggering 400 miles of roadway, yet we receive a small allocation of funding for road repairs. Tapping into all available funding sources in a typical year, Yonkers spends around 1.5 million dollars on repaving our roads. As you can imagine, this budget does not stretch very far.
Prior to this meeting, Steve had contacted Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer’s office to see if there were any public safety funds available since Parkview is not only a major emergency vehicle route but is a direct link to the Bronx River Parkway and NY Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital. The constant traffic of heavy equipment on this roadway has deteriorated its surface.
Steve had also investigated the possibility of Armour Villa being designated as a Special Taxing District, where an assessment of several hundred dollars on local property owners could cover improvement and ongoing maintenance of our streets. Of course, this action would require a referendum vote by all residents. If passed, the city would bond for the cost, put the project out to bid and then write off the initial cost over 10 years. Our benefit would be better roads in Armour Villa plus an improvement in our property values. We only have to look east across Pondfield Road West to see the difference in the surface of the road where Bronxville recently completed a major repaving project.
After consulting with Yonkers’ Corporation Counsel, it appears that there is no mechanism currently in place within the city charter to allow us to become a Special Taxing District. Funds for this type of project are part of the general taxing authority of the city along with police, fire and DPW activities. A change in the city charter is not likely to happen in the near future. However, we will continue to explore other options to make improvements in our local roads.
At the end of the meeting, two streets definitely scheduled for repaving were identified: Cassilis from Howe to Tuckahoe, and Pondfield Road West (a major thoroughfare connecting Bronxville with Yonkers. Other streets are on the wish list but have not been confirmed. ET Theotokatos took down specific requests for pot hole repairs or other street problems attendees identified.
It was agreed that our community would collect and forward all of our residents’ concerns to the appropriate city agencies. Paul Summerfield made a commitment to keep us up to date on all new developments and time lines on the repair and repaving of Parkview Avenue. He agreed that he would follow up on the final repairs for the sinkhole on Gard Avenue that currently has a metal plate covering it. (The sinkhole came about because a storm sewer was undermined by surrounding soil.) An outside contractor had reinforced the sewer line with concrete, so the DPW will come back and fill the sinkhole after the asphalt plants reopen in April, when the weather warms and road repairs start in earnest.
I want to express my appreciation to Mike Breen and Dan Crowley for their cooperation in pulling this meeting together and staying on top of all our the calls for potholes repairs during this winter. Thanks also to Paul Summerfield and his team, along with Commissioner Thomas Meir from the Department of Public Works, for their cooperation in addressing our concerns. Finally, my thanks to Mayor Mike Spano and his head of constituent services, ET Theotokatos, for their office’s support of our efforts to improve road conditions in Armour Villa.
It is our responsibility to keep our officials abreast of the challenges we encounter with public services. The Armour Villa Association is an advocate working to see that our concerns are being given serious consideration by city officials. It will always be a challenge in a city of this size to compete for limited funding for repairs and improvements, but if we are to maintain the quality of life in Armour Villa (we are an important part of the tax base supporting the city’s larger efforts) then we must receive our fair share of the city services, whether that be public safety in terms of fire and police protection, access to our local public schools, sanitation, road repairs and repaving, or replacing aging infrastructure. All of this directly impacts on our ability to attract and retain homeowners who contribute significantly to the overall health and vitality of the Yonkers.