Vol. 20,  No. 5 March 8 - 21, 2007



Why the Beaver’s Important
Not too long ago a coyote was spotted at Woodlawn Cemetery. Turkeys patrol the woods of Van Cortlandt Park. Hawks soar over Tracey Towers.

But no animal sighting has stirred as much national – and international – buzz as Jose the beaver, who has taken up residence in the Bronx River near the Bronx Zoo. Google the little guy and you’ll find there have been over 600,000 news items and almost 1,200 blogs mentioning the beaver.

Beavers are in the city’s DNA. They’re on the official municipal flag and seal – but none have been spotted within the city limits in two centuries.

Enter Jose. One far-away newspaper categorized his appearance under the heading “Weird News.”

But it’s not weird. The beaver’s return comes after decades of people power clad in hip waders, aided and abetted by significant government largesse (most recently courtesy of river fan Congressman Jose Serrano, for whom the beaver is named).

Long past the stage of abandoned car and tire removal, the river’s restoration is now within range of being swimmable, by people as well as beavers. Former state attorney general Eliot Spitzer, who stopped institutions and towns from releasing sewage into the river, helped make this possible. Riverbank and flood plain restoration have also breathed new life into the river. And perhaps most importantly, Bronx River Restoration and its successor, the Bronx River Alliance, have led this magnificent renaissance by marshalling the forces of volunteers and community organizations.

The beaver’s return to the Bronx is a wonderful metaphor for the borough’s ongoing resurgence in several areas – housing, culture, the environment, etc. Great things are happening here, and great people from all walks of local life are making them happen.

So, Jose the Beaver is not a freak of nature. Like a lot of other great Bronx things, he’s the fruit of our collective labors.

Endangered Pedestrians
Eva Schweitzer, 82, was a Holocaust survivor and Woodlawn resident who loved playing cards at the Riverdale Y.

Kenneth Filacchione, 62, was a security guard at Manhattan College.

Ellen McHugh was 66 years old.

Sixty-seven-year-old Abdul Choudhury was a Knox Place resident who sold newspapers for a living.

Patrick Patrisso, 58, lived on Boston Road.

What do all these people have in common?

Each of the five was a pedestrian struck by a vehicle and killed on Gun Hill Road since January of last year. The first three were killed at the intersection of Bainbridge Avenue and Gun Hill Road. The last two were struck near the intersection of Gun Hill and Webster Avenue.

In November, Community Board 7 District Manager Rita Kessler called for urgent action at the Bainbridge intersection in a letter to the Department of Transportation.

Within the last couple of weeks, “Turning Vehicles Yield to Pedestrians” signage has been installed, and signs urging pedestrians to “Wait for Walk” have been repositioned.

This is a good step. But there is much more to do.

It shouldn’t take three months to install signs at an intersection where three people have died.
And, according to the nonprofit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, in addition to the two killed at the Webster/Gun Hill intersection, there have been 21 injuries at the same location. Do we have to wait for a three months study to get signs there as well?

In 2006, 166 pedestrians in the city were hit by cars or trucks and killed. Over 10,000 were hit and injured.

TA points out that Mayor Bloomberg has spoken out on other threats to public safety, like transfats, gun violence, and cigarettes.

The mayor may need his hand forced on the issue of traffic safety. Hundreds of New Yorkers turned out for a rally organized by TA at City Hall a few days ago to do just that.

“Ten percent of city intersections account for over 50 percent of all fatalities and injuries,” says TA. “The city knows where the most dangerous intersections are, it knows how to fix them, and it must fix them without delay.” Hear hear.

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