For many years, a filling station operated on the west side of Eighth Avenue between Horatio and West 13th Streets. It was the first stop of the day for many uptown destined cab drivers who lined up, not only to fill their tanks with gasoline, but to fill their stomachs with great Indian meals. On many evenings my wife, Judith, and I would stop for curried chicken, rice and samosas to take home for dinner. A determined Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) grew out of the asphalt up 40 ft. high against the one story filling station; roses were planted in from by the attendants.
Last year, without forewarning, the station was closed and the building razed. The abandoned paved lot was fenced with raggedy plywood which was subsequently painted with an attractive brightly colored scroll work. Unfortunately, while the fence was placed on the property line along a short stretch of Horatio Street, it was moved five ft. over the sidewalk along Eighth Avenue where there is heavy pedestrian traffic headed for the subway station and crosstown bus on 14th Street. This forced many people to walk in the road at great peril to their lives as west turning cabs and other vehicles drove up behind them. There has not been activity on the lot for many months.
This hazardous condition was brought to the attention of the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) by Community Board Chair Brad Hoylman and the Traffic and Transportation Committee Chair Shirley Secunda. The DOT responded quickly, promising to have the fence moved back to the property line. Hopefully, as you read this the situation, it will have been corrected.
While the DOT has imaginatively moved forward with well designed improvements in pedestrian safety and pleasure, especially in areas of high pedestrian traffic volume, construction projects and sidewalk bridges have taken over enormous amounts of public land to build private projects. Some of this is unavoidable, but in many cases sidewalk bridges are installed when no work is taking place. In this case, on Eighth Avenue at 13th Street, there is no work going on nor any construction permits posted on the fence. Even construction might be able to take place without encroaching on to the sidewalk. There is no reason now to steal our sidewalks or diminish the pleasure and convenience of walking. Furthermore, the DOT might also require viewing portals at frequent intervals along the fence.