Never-ending Construction Frustrates on Fordham

By David Szolnoki

Fordham Road. Boasting a stop on the 4 train, a Metro North station, and numerous bus routes, it has a well-earned reputation as one of the busiest stretches of real estate in the Bronx. But, even in the booming cacophony of people, vehicles and stores there is one sound no one wants to hear. A sound that adds infinite complications to an already-hectic journey for thousands of New Yorkers. And that is the awful boom of construction vehicles

In early 2010, the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) began an initiative to “clean up” East Fordham Road, revamping everything from street lighting to the sewer systems. The process was intended to last two years. For the people who work at the numerous shops along the sidewalks, those two years have felt long indeed.

Adam Riley, a cashier at a Checkers, not one block away from one of the main construction sites, says it just makes his tricky commute even worse. “I’ve got to drive all the way through Fordham to get to work,” says Riley. “Every time, it gets in the way. It’s ridiculous and it inconveniences me all the time. What’s going on? My tax dollars at work here.”

For the most part, construction ended in the spring of 2012, only to give rise to a more isolated, but equally disruptive endeavor. In February 2013, plans were announced to do radical reconstructive work on Fordham Plaza, one of the primary transportation hubs of the area.

The time it will take? All the way into mid-2014. Acknowledging the concerns, Jonathan Conte, the community liaison of the DDC, pleads with commuters to be patient, saying that the changes will “improve the traffic flow in and around Fordham Plaza.”

However, it is the current, disruptive traffic flow that concerns Malcolm Peña, who has to pass through Fordham Plaza to reach work. “I drive day-to-day, walk sometimes,” says Peña. “Sometimes I can’t hear myself think. I try to tune it out with music, even traffic comes through the music. It’s becoming agitating and annoying. I wish they’d just finish it up already.”  

In an attempt to mitigate the disruption to commuters, the work starts as early as 7:00 AM. According to Wilma Alonso, head of the Fordham Road Business Improvement District (BID), this is because there is “No traffic at that time…that’s too early.”

But even if the construction workers try to be accommodating, the reality is that it is a daily hassle. “Driving on Fordham road is a nightmare now,” says frequent commuter Matty Lee. “Then you have these bullshit buses in the middle of the road, like they own the street. Here I am trying to abide the law, and then all the sudden, they go 20 miles below speed limit.  Then the other cars too, because with the construction, you are down to like one lane. These people are going like grandma speed.”

The stretch of real estate known as Fordham Plaza not only plays host to numerous franchise stores like Best Buy, McDonald’s and Pathmark; it also is one of the busiest stops for the Bx22, Bx9 and Bx12 buses.

The stops themselves are usually located near the West entrance to Fordham University. They had to be moved almost a full two blocks up the street. It was nearly a week until notices were posted at the now-abandoned stops, directing pedestrians to the new locations. Commuters who were unaware of the changes had a difficult time finding out where they needed to go.

Edina Maltin, who drives the Bx9 bus to West Farm, has seen the impact on commuters first-hand. “I can hear them complaining that the bus ride is taking way too long,” she says. “I have no way of saying, ‘Listen, it’s not my fault.’ It just makes my job a lot harder. I really need it to be fixed up ASAP.”

Aware of the frustration of commuters, Fordham Road BID head Alonso simply asks people to bear with the inconvenience and “focus on the positive outcome.” It is clear that the already-busy Fordham Road is going to be a lot busier for a long time to come.

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