Some cars can’t compete with the gargantuan crater in the ground on Old Albany Post Road. It’s just too deep. And when it rains, too slippery, too treacherous, a puddle of epic proportion, it’s ultimate depths seemingly unknown.
But the street itself lies just west of Van Cortlandt Park’s vast expansive ballfields, not far from a desolate-looking strip of abandoned storefronts — made even more bleak on a damp, gray, chilly January afternoon — adjacent to West 251st Street, sandwiched between Post Road and Broadway.
Councilman Andrew Cohen and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz have issued a joint charge to the state — sell the ailing street to the city for just a buck, with an eye toward mending its now deplorable condition and actually maintaining it.
In fact, if Cohen had his way, there’d be more rigorous snow removal, a proper parking setup with at least some semblance of regulation, and fixing gaping potholes some residents claim have, at times, transformed into a kind of cesspool for used condoms and sundry drug paraphernalia.
At the moment, the state owns and controls the pitiful road, Cohen said, but is “eager” to dispose of it because they’ve no interest in taking responsibility for maintaining it.
And while the councilman isn’t really a big fan of the state dumping responsibility on the city, he does believe that, in this particular case, it just makes more sense for the city to take ownership.
“Treat it like any other street in New York City,” Cohen told The Riverdale Press.
Dinowitz was no less forgiving, especially since the issue — and the putrid sludge that accumulates on the road after even a light rain — has been festering for longer than he can even remember.
“I am displeased with both the state and the city,” Dinowitz told The Press. “This is not a new issue. In the past, we’ve got some cleanup done there. There’s dumping, abandoned cars, potholes, mini lakes, mattresses — disgusting.”
The city’s transportation department, meanwhile, has resisted taking it on.
“They don’t want responsibility,” Dinowitz said. “I’m not specifically criticizing DOT. In general, no (city) agency seems to want to add to their obligations.”
But if it were the city’s responsibility, it would bring a smattering of boons, from paving, to filling potholes, to regular cleaning.
“That hasn’t happened,” Dinowitz said, “but we want the DOT agree to take over” the road.
Borough transportation commissioner Nivardo Lopez told Cohen last December acquisition and any improvements to the road would require “extensive review” that could take around three months, adding the department’s capital program group would “explore all possible options.”
But that’s way too long for both Cohen and Dinowitz who — at a press conference Jan. 18, standing along the edge of a massive pothole flooded with murky water — called on the transportation department to expedite their review process.
Near them, discarded Amazon shipping boxes and other ripped cardboard lay on the ground, rotting in dankness. Jagged wood, brambly branches, bumpy dirt, almost like something out of a Gothic novel.
“It’s Third World here right now,” Cohen told reporters. “It’s just unacceptable. I don’t know how you get in or get out.”
The puddle behind him, he said, was really more like a lake.
Mary Hemings lived for a decade on Post Road in a building whose rear faces the street.
A year ago, however, she moved to North Riverdale’s Skyview-on-the-Hudson. She’s glad she got out when she did. Parking on Old Albany Post Road could be an anxiety-inducing struggle at times, all because of the untended road.
And, she said, it’s gotten even worse since she left.
But she’d showed up to show support for her old neighbor Luis Malavé, who still lives on the woebegone road. He’s mounted a kind of campaign to salvage it, since its current condition makes accessing driveways for him and his neighbors a daunting challenge.
Water cascades all over the place, made worse by a clogged sewer, and used to flow down to plague an adjacent building on Broadway before a retaining wall was built to prevent it. Now, water just seems to accumulate in the middle of the road, Malavé said, causing filthy flooding made worse by a clogged catch basin.
And, apparently submerged somewhere beneath the surface, lays a gas pipe that at one time sprung a leak, Malavé said, which Con Edison reputedly repaired and even paved over.
But ruthless elements led to erosion, leaving what could only be described as a potentially deadly situation.
“God forbid there’s a very heavy truck” that drives over the pipe and somehow ruptures it, Malavé said. “If that explodes, we’re all toast. It’s awful.”
Whether Lopez will heed the neighborhood’s collective cry remains uncertain. DOT had nothing more to say, other than they’re looking into it.
Yet, it appears the state, at least, is on board with the scheme.
If the city is willing to take on the strip of neglected land as a street, the state is indeed authorized to convey it, said Thomas Pohl, deputy counsel at the state’s general services office in an email to Cohen’s office last December. But a legal description would need to be prepared and reviewed prior to drafting the deed.
The application under the statute is in the form of a city council resolution agreeing to take title, Pohl added. The statutory consideration is for just $1, and comes with a reverter to the state if not used for a street.
“Of course, we really don’t want it back,” Pohl said.
“We have been trying to dispose of the parcel for 30 years,” and will take all the help they can get in order to finally seal the deal.
For Cohen, that part is good news. But it’s far from enough.
“I’m happy that the state is at least cooperating in trying to transfer the property,” Cohen said. “But ultimately, the state should be embarrassed. They own the street. They don’t dispute that. And they’ve let it deteriorate to the point that it’s impassable.
“It’s a blight. I don’t want to praise the state, but I am grateful that they are at least willing to sell it for a nominal amount.”