Vol. 16, No. 13  June 19 - July 2, 2003


Seeking Solution in Mystery of Problem Streets 


The dream? Coles Lane and Poe Place will be beautiful side streets in the Bronx, with steps, litter-free sidewalks and plenty of greenery.

The reality? The two little litter-strewn streets, located between Kingsbridge Road and Bainbridge Avenue in North Fordham, are crumbling and have uneven steps and graffiti on the walls of the buildings. 

According to residents and community advocates, the streets, which aren't even marked with the usual green street signs, have been deteriorating for nearly two decades. But before any rehabilitation can begin, the ownership of Coles Lane and Poe Place must be determined.

Since the two streets are apparently unmapped -- meaning, they do not appear on any Department of Transportation map -- and thus are technically not open to traffic, the ownership of the two streets is unclear.

"The goal is to find out who owns the property and get it fixed up," said Rosanna Viera, a staffer with the Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation (FBHC), a nonprofit that owns 70 residential buildings in the area. 

DOT officials say they are working on trying to solve the mystery. "We're still trying to figure out who owns Coles Lane and Poe Place," said Tom Cocola, a DOT spokesman.

Rita Kessler, district manager of Community Board 7, has also been pressing DOT on the problem. "We need to get to the bottom line: who owns it?" she said. "Then we can plant, fix the roadways, and make it pretty. It will be a nice area for people to walk through." 

And having a nice area for people to walk through, residents say, will be all the more important when pedestrian traffic increases as the Bronx Borough Library Center opens in a couple of years (see story on p. 12) and the old Fordham Library Center on Bainbridge is possibly transformed into a public school.

A recent visit to the two streets with Viera found dangerous and unsanitary conditions.

Garbage, ranging from kitchen utensils to furniture and old sneakers, was scattered all over. Pieces of glass glistened in the cracks in the deteriorating pavement. The almost nonexistent curbs mean there is no separation between the sidewalk and the street. There is only one streetlight, which does not provide suitable light.

"A child fell down the steps because they're uneven," Viera said. "In its current 
condition, Coles Lane isn't safe." Viera paused and glanced down the street at a 
refrigerator lying on its side. "It's a mess." 

Helen Hamer, who has lived on Coles Lane since 1977, believes rehabilitation of her street is long overdue and that now is the perfect time to act. "Things are being built up around this area, with the new Bronx Library across the street. Coles Lane takes away from the revitalization of the area, and it affects the quality of life," she said. "It could be nice, as a garden setting. I see nice greenery to enhance the lane, with some seating."

FBHC has uncovered a deed for Coles Lane from 1964 that indicates the street belongs to the city. And since the street is used as a public street and a walkway, the organization believes the DOT should take the lead in renovating it. 

"It walks like a street, talks like a street. It is a street," said Patrick Logan, FBHC's director of policy and planning. 

FBHC has a proposal for fixing up the two streets once the mystery is solved: new sidewalks, curbs, asphalt street paving, a new drainage system, more street lighting and lots of greenery.

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