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PBTP: St. Paul Avenue traffic flow flawed

There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the two factions in Pelham Bay regarding the switch in the direction of traffic on a stretch of St. Paul Avenue over two years ago.

Many area residents, predominantly members of the newly re-grouped Pelham Bay Taxpayers and Community Association, are calling on the NYC Department of Transportation to reverse the direction of St. Paul Avenue, between 196th Street and Pelham Parkway South back to southbound. It is now northbound.

 Presently, traffic exiting from eastbound Pelham Parkway must travel to Burr Avenue, to get to Westchester Avenue, angering some residents of surrounding blocks that were used to having St. Paul Avenue as a shortcut to Westchester Avenue.

 “I know of no other community that has three blocks in a row (Colonial, St. Paula and Continental) going in the same direction,” said Anita Valenti, of the PBTCA. “When I want to go to Key Food on Westchester Avenue, I have to go through Pelham Bay station.”

Valenti said that community members opposed to the switch have collected more than 600 petition signatures.

The latest effort pits residents of St. Paul Avenue between Pelham Parkway South and E. 196th Street against residents of Burr Avenue, the street now used by the bulk of diverted cars, as well as residents of Colonial Avenue, who also must now use Burr Avenue to reach their homes.

A spokesman for the DOT said it changed the street direction after a vote by Community Board 10 in November 2005.  According to the spokesman, as a rule of thumb DOT does not change directions of any streets without community board approval, and St. Paul Avenue’s direction can not be changed again without another vote by CB 10.

On the other side of the coin, many residents of the quiet stretch of St. Paul Avenue like the change that occurred in April 2006, as they feel that a street like Burr Avenue, which is a bus route, is more suited to handle the heavy traffic exiting Pelham Parkway.

“It is safer this way – they used to come around the turn and barrel down our street like they were still on Pelham Parkway,” said St. Paul Avenue resident Joe Bellini, who owns a home on the block. “People would use this street as a shortcut to the Bruckner. The reason people are complaining is that this change took away a bad habit.”

Many of the homeowners on the street said they had to put up with traffic when Our Lady of Mercy Hospital had a branch with ambulatory care on the corner, but now that it is being converted into an assisted living facility, the change suits the area.

“What is more important, safety or convenience?” asked Theresa Bellini.

Some believe, though, that what has benefited St. Paul Avenue has hurt the quality-of-life on Burr Avenue.

“Before, 50% of traffic coming off Pelham Parkway went down St. Paul and the other 50% down Burr Avenue,” Valenti explained. “Now, 100% of the traffic comes down Burr Avenue.  It’s just too much.”

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