• What Is Happening On Greenwich Avenue?

    Construction on Greenwich Avenue (7/1/24)

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    Submitted by a group of Greenwich residents

    In 2022, the Department of Public Works (DPW) came before Planning and Zoning (P&Z) to review its Municipal Improvement (MI) application for the Greenwich Avenue/Elm Street intersection. P&Z addressed design flaws that were not resolved prior to construction including unusually high curbs and planting beds, narrowing of sidewalks, awkward ADA spaces and drainage concerns. Unfortunately many design flaws remain. A local merchant pointed out that two of the four handicapped parking spaces at the Elm Street intersection do not have direct access to the sidewalk and must go out into the oncoming traffic to get to the sidewalk.  The merchant has witnessed customers “trip and fall into the rose beds” on a regular basis.

    Alex Popp, a Landscape Designer in town, has previously questioned the quality of the green space created by the bump out design.  “The bump out designs are flawed, missing key elements, reduces true open spaces and replaces it with concrete planters and White Plains-like bush islands,” he said.

    Subsequently, an MI approved by P&Z for additional bump outs (at Havemeyer/Arch and Fawcett/Griggs) along Greenwich Avenue was overturned by The Representative Town Meeting.  The public’s concerns included loss of much needed parking spaces, dangerous new traffic patterns, costs and maintenance of new greenscapes and flooding. As it turns out, the public’s concerns were valid despite Department of Public Works' (DPW) assurances otherwise. For example, here’s what happens at the bump out intersection when it rains:

    Local businesses at this location have been dramatically impacted by the new design which has been both costly and burdensome. Prior to the bump outs, rainwater was unimpeded and flowed naturally down the Avenue. But now, stores and basements are flooding. Many buildings are 100 years old or more and one landlord retained a structural engineer, at the cost of $7,000, following a flood to confirm the building foundation wasn’t compromised. “This flooding never happened before the bump outs. Imagine if this were a restaurant,” he said. Another merchant commented, “the new planting beds have unusually high curbs causing people to trip. It’s a hazard.” Another stated, “these beds have narrowed the sidewalks creating a bottleneck for pedestrian traffic. The only winners of the bump outs are the dogs with their newly expanded public restrooms. It’s much less hygienic.”

    Also, merchants and customers complain about the constant state of confusion and unsafe conditions for pedestrians and cars moving through this intersection. Too often drivers and pedestrians are confused over who has the right of way and when to go. As one merchant stated, “without the police, the crossings are no longer controlled and orderly. It’s a miracle we don’t have an accident every minute.” Another store employee who has worked on the Avenue for many years said she observes near misses and chaos from her storefront all day long. The common sentiment by the locals is “It’s a free-for-all” and that the Avenue’s safety and unique charm has been sacrificed.

    Town officials indicated that large trucks and emergency vehicles could make the turn onto Greenwich Avenue. However this is often not the case. The image below shows a truck that was unable to turn onto the Avenue and held up traffic.  Fire trucks also have trouble navigating through the narrowed intersection. Recently a fire truck, while avoiding oncoming traffic, became stuck on the raised bed in the bump out. 

    Town officials also represented that Avenue parking spaces would be replaced by side street parking.  With a net-loss of convenient spaces, merchants report that many customers, including elderly clients, are reluctant or unable to park far away and simply go home when they can’t find a nearby spot.  

    In June 2024, holding only one public hearing, DPW presented plans to replace curbs, sidewalks and upgrade eight intersections on Greenwich Avenue and to become ADA compliant.  However, this project is far more encompassing and complicated than just that. Concerned residents asked questions about ADA compliance but DPW did not explain at the hearing.  Also, the presentation revealed a host of many other unresolved issues. The odd geometry for the planned intersections creates more challenges than solutions for the safe and orderly passage of pedestrians and vehicles. The complexity of these asymmetric intersections needs more design development and input from traffic and urban design professionals.  All of this points to a project that is fast-tracked and needlessly rushed. 

    The First Selectman and the DPW have chosen to bypass the standard MI application process for this project that ensures proper oversight and accountability.   The question is why they chose to do so. 

    Ask our First Selectman Fred Camillo by phone at: 203-536-5659 or by email at: [email protected] and cc: [email protected]

    This letter was submitted by the following Greenwich residents:

    Amaris Guadalupe
    John Hopley
    Ramya Hopley
    Pamela Pell
    Tom Plant
    Jane Sprung
    Christina Volkwein

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