Merchants lobby to keep Riverdale Ave. identified

By MIAWLING LAM

Merchants have joined elected officials in deriding plans to eliminate “Riverdale Avenue” from new Henry Hudson Parkway road signs, arguing the omission will negatively impact the area’s identity.

The North Riverdale Merchants Association raised concerns about the proposed change at last Thursday’s Community Board 8 economic development committee meeting.

President Gary Wartels said the plan to remove all references to “Riverdale Avenue” on overhead northbound exit signs at the West 239th and West 253rd Street exits was a grave mistake.

He said the elimination would turn the area into another anonymous neighborhood and feared motorists would get lost if the signage design process proceeded as planned. Wartels said he already receives up to 15 calls a month from members of the public wanting to reach his store.

“I clearly see both sides of the issue between upgrading the signage for the environment,” he said. “On the other hand, given the economy right now, anything we can do to promote Mosholu and Riverdale Avenue as a cohesive shopping area and business area is what we need to do.”

Wartels said an apt compromise would be to erect a smaller sign on the highway that advertises the exit as feeding into a Riverdale shopping district.

As the Riverdale Review reported last month, dozens of traffic signs along the parkway will be moved, replaced or removed completely under an ambitious $8 million program.

Officials assert the changes would improve safety, upgrade communication effectiveness, boost aesthetics, save money and cut extraneous messages currently bombarding drivers along the parkway, starting from West 125th Street in Manhattan to the Westchester County border.

With respect to the contentious removal of “Riverdale Avenue,” authorities argue if the cross street were to remain on the new signs, a costly overhead sign would need to be erected—a structure that costs around $150,000 to install and maintain.

CB8 economic development committee chair Sergio Villaverde threw his support behind preserving existing references to “Riverdale Avenue.”

“My sense with discussing with the other chairs and others outside of this community board is that it’s unanimous that we all want to keep the nature of the neighborhood identified in some specific way,” he said.

“So whatever the Department of Transportation does, it should actually work to promote the business districts and the unique characters of all the neighborhoods, especially those within our community board.”

New York State Department of Transportation spokesman Adam Levine said authorities were still in the design process and assured the public that no final decision has been made. He also stressed that officials have been made aware of the community’s concerns.

“We anticipate that there will be additional conversations and some get-togethers in the near future to try and discuss things and see all the different sides of the issue,” he said.

The signage design process is set to finish in October, before construction begins in spring 2013. Work is set for completion by fall 2014.

Just last month, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz panned the idea after NYSDOT representatives presented their plans at a joint CB8 meeting.

“Taking ‘Riverdale Avenue’ off those signs is a mistake,” he said at the time. “The streets in Riverdale are confusing to many people, and saying there’s not enough room for ‘Riverdale Avenue’ is a pretty lame reason.

“I’m sure they can find a way to include the words ‘Riverdale Avenue’ on those signs.”

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