September 27, 2021, Mayor's Column

This is my third column in a series that focuses on all things related to our Village roads, sidewalks, safety and maintenance furthering the goal of increased walkability.

On the issue of safety, several of you have asked if we could assign an additional crossing guard to the intersection of Midland Avenue and Pondfield Road. New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law cautions against this configuration as essentially two signaling devices would be at the same intersection. As example, the light may change as the crossing guard is still waving children across the street causing confusion to a driver who may be focused on one or the other. What seems like almost a backup protection turns out to be a more dangerous situation as the potential for different signaling presents a more precarious predicament.

I had mentioned in a previous column that we plan a major upgrade to the Midland Avenue/Pondfield Road intersection with pedestrian buttons and timing devices that will increase the safety of the intersection to a great degree. To that end, traffic count equipment is currently installed at the intersection to assist in design calculations.

Though bike riding is encouraged where appropriate, bikes are strictly prohibited on the sidewalks in the business district as are skateboards and electric scooters.  The sidewalk is for the safe passage of pedestrians and bikes mixed with strollers, senior citizens and shoppers presents a very dangerous situation.

Several residents have asked about the use of “Children at Play” signs. Excessive use of these are discouraged as they become similar to our current reaction to car alarms i.e., to ignore them. It is suggested that if used they be used sparingly and put away each evening so they don’t become so common place that they begin to go unnoticed. Police departments in general discourage them because they also send a message that children should play in the street which is not a safety practice that you want to promote.

The issue of increased sidewalks has come up when discussing the term walkability. As background, the Village has a certain number of feet of right of way on each street which varies greatly in our Village from neighborhood to neighborhood based on the topography. To construct sidewalks where they currently do not exist may require eminent domain by the Village and frankly in many cases, the resulting removal of lawns and shrubbery, and even retaining walls as many properties’ front lawns are actually in the Village right away of way. In addition, once a sidewalk is placed in front of a property, even if constructed by the Village, the ownership reverts to the home owner and with it all maintenance responsibility and any consequential liability.

I have received a great deal of observational comments by residents in response to the last two columns and I thought much of what was said, all in a very measured and thoughtful way, was worth passing on.

Residents mentioned the issue of unleashed dogs in front yards without electric fences and/or where the electric fence directly abuts the sidewalk or passage area. Some young people and some of our older residents have had some bad experiences with dogs darting out or scaring them, resulting in feeling less safe walking in certain neighborhoods. We ask you to review the configuration of your electric fences, move them back if possible, as well as the location of your dogs when they are outside unsupervised.

Also, both our driving and walking community requested that dogs be on shorter leashes as they sometimes can dart out in the road startling drivers and/or run up to unsuspecting people walking only to find a dog underfoot.

As a result of the size and sometimes laxed maintenance of shrubbery residents have driving lines of site issues as well as the narrowing of sidewalk passage causing walkers to step in the roadway.  Foliage must be trimmed for visibility reasons and properties on corners need to be especially vigilant.

Many of you have inquired about the incredibly disruptive construction this summer on Midland Avenue and Vine Street in particular as well as portions of Elm Rock Road, Oriole Avenue, Locust Lane, Lee Place and Wood End Lane. It was the result of a long in the queue capital project of Con Edison‘s involving  the replacement of old cast iron gas transmission lines. The installation of the new lines will result in the elimination of gas leaks and odors and the temporary repairs that have honestly plagued these neighborhoods in the past. Lines were also upgraded to improve individual residential gas service.

On another positive note, in the hopes that it may decrease some Village vehicular traffic, Metro North has now added many more trains resulting in the return to 100% of the pre-Covid weekend schedule and 87% of our former normal weekday schedule. Ridership is also very steadily increasing.

Two of our new solar speed signs have also finally come from the manufacturer and installed in the Village.

Residents have also requested that we remind our young drivers who go back-and-forth to school and are often out and about at the same hours that young children are at play to be mindful of speed and attentiveness.

This coming Wednesday, we will be meeting with members of the Westchester County Planning Department team and their consultants to get direction as to the process going forward for our walkability study in which all of the above issues will be discussed.

At some point in the process, as the schedule unfolds, there will most certainly be a public/neighborhood opinion and survey component and significant community involvement.