Caught by the Willis Ave Swing Bridge

Two weeks ago, I was on my way home when I realized that the Willis Avenue Bridge between Manhattan and the Bronx is built to let ships through. It actually rotates on a central post, which is even more interesting than a drawbridge, and as annoyed as I was by the added travel time, at least I got to see something worthwhile.

An NYPD Highway Patrol (car 5525)

You see, I was already upset because I got caught in traffic on I-287 West in Brooklyn and I was 45 minutes behind on my trip home. I was very upset because I found out that the reason traffic was backed up and 45 minutes was added to my commute was because there was an NYPD Highway Patrol officer parked across two lanes of traffic… for nothing. No accident, no debris in the road. Nothing. He was just sitting there to sit there. Like a jackass.

Anyway, as I went up the ramp from the FDR to the bridge, I hit standstill traffic. Then I noticed the flashing lights and the crossing gates dropping into place to block traffic on both sides of the river. Gas is expensive and I figured I might as well utilize the opportunity to see something new (to me) and interesting, so I parked, walked over to the side of the ramp and watched for a while.

The Willis Ave Bridge rotating.

There was a small group of pedestrians and cyclists further up, gathering at the gates. I also noticed workers in orange vests on both ends of the bridge, as well as leaning out of a door in the central support structure below the bridge.

The barge being repositioned to be pushed through the gap.

The bridge rotated and a barge was moved through the opening with the help of a tug boat. Looking down from the on ramp, I saw that there was quite a bit of construction going on. I wonder what that’s all about, but I think it must have something to do with an extension of the Greenway around the island for jogging, cycling, and recreation. The city has been working on that project for quite a few years and one day I want to do a full circuit of the perimeter of the island. Not that I’ve ridden my bike any time recently, but one day.

A look south at the construction along the waterfront. The arm of the Triborough Bridge that connects with Manhattan is visible in the background.

I was still aggravated at the lost time, but at least I had a new experience to show for it. Most of the time, traffic in New York City is bogged down because of bad drivers that cause accidents, or broken down vehicles, which is more forgivable. But it seems so pointless sometimes, spending hours in traffic. At least there are audiobooks.

Jerome Ave Flooding Damage, January 2021 – Bronx, NY

A picture of the NYC Emergency Management Bus parked along the curb on 175th Street near Jerome Avenue

Living in the Bronx is exciting. You never know what you’re going to see when you go outside or even when you look out your window at 4 AM. For example, early last Thursday morning I saw a river where I expected to see an avenue.

4 AM Thursday Morning

A water main break at 175th Street was causing major flooding. The water main that broke was cast iron, 48″ across, and was installed in 1909. It’s kind of hard to believe that something installed in 1909 was still holding up considering all of the traffic that rolls across Jerome every day and the vibrations from the elevated 4 train. Maybe this will encourage local politicians to address the traffic issue in this area.

Jerome Avenue sits in a depression that I’ve always wondered about. Was it a river in the past that was converted into a roadway? Or just a natural valley? Regardless, it is now a major thoroughfare in the Bronx both for vehicles and for an elevated train line. That worked to funnel the water towards I-95, which sits at an even lower elevation and crosses under Jerome Ave a block away.

I can’t say I was completely unhappy to see the street flooding, even though I was worried about my car and the impact on local businesses that I frequent. This stretch of Jerome Avenue is usually filthy. It needed a good wash. It needs a second wash for good measure, but I don’t suppose that’s going to happen anytime soon. Maybe when the two new buildings that are going up are finished and new people and businesses start moving into the neighborhood? I have hopes that this section of the Bronx, being right on a train line and with quick access to two major highways, will be vastly improved over the next year or so.

Anyway, looking out of my window at 4 AM, I could see that the water was hip deep and rising. Cars parked along the avenue were already half-submerged. What I couldn’t quite figure out is why the water seemed to be so deep between 177th Street and 175th Street, but was almost completely absent from 175th Street down towards I-95. I could see emergency workers standing in the road there. The difference in elevation from one block to the next isn’t that severe.

Thursday Evening

Later that evening I went out to get groceries and to look around. Most of the businesses along that stretch were closed or people were using pumps to remove water from the basements. I could see people in El Gran Valle on the corner of 176th and Jerome looking around and shaking their heads like they were dealing with a lost cause.

The road itself was covered with mud and there were emergency work crews surrounding huge holes in the intersection of 175th Street and Jerome, in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts. A reporter, Naveen Dhaliwal from Channel 7 I think, was on the corner. It looked like she was getting ready for the following news segment:


People clearing damaged items out of businesses on Friday afternoon.

Today (Friday), more than 48 hours later, water was still being pumped out of the basements of businesses and workers at a church and bodega were hauling damaged equipment, furniture, and other odds & ends out to the curb for disposal. Between the physical and fire damage from the riots and this week’s flooding, the area is really taking a beating. I can’t help but wonder if the damage was done intentionally to try to clear out some of these businesses so that more new buildings can be erected.

One last thing I wanted to note. ConEdison has closed Jerome Avenue between 176th Street and 175th Street for repairs. Today, some overly clever clown got out of his car, moved the cones, and drove down Jerome anyway. He was forced to turn around both by ConEdison workers and by the lack of a road in the 175th Street intersection. People really are something else in the Bronx.

Traffic Congestion and Reckless Driving in New York City

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018. W 39th St. & 6th Ave in Manhattan, New York City.

I was traveling straight in the right-hand lane when a Yankee Trails bus (lic. plate 41944-PC, perhaps, the video is sort of blurry) made a right onto 6th Ave from the left-hand lane and cut me off. I had to turn hard to the right to avoid having the bus hit the front of my car and probably rip the front fender off or worse.

This is obviously a violation of traffic laws and is reckless driving. Bus drivers in NYC just don’t seem to care about other vehicles on the road. Even MTA buses often cut people off or swing hard into an adjacent lane without waiting for traffic to clear, running other vehicles into oncoming traffic or causing them to have to slam hard on their brakes.

It’s ridiculous and this type of driving is consistent and constant in New York City. It’s not just the buses, either. A lot of people in personal vehicles drive the same way.

Take this driver, for example:

Every so often, Pix11 or NY1 will post a story on Facebook about traffic congestion and commenters offer a slew of theories and complaints. Those complaints have mostly targetted For-Hire Vehicle services, but I don’t see removing all for-hire vehicles as a legitimate or even reasonable solution.

Are there a lot of For-Hire Vehicles in the city? Yes, because there are a lot of people that need and use them. Do they cause a lot of congestion? Not really. Not compared to traffic accidents caused by people who drive like that Yankee Trails bus driver, or the person on Westend Ave in the second video. Or like all of the double and triple-parked delivery vehicles during the day that bottleneck traffic on main avenues and side streets.

Traffic congestion sucks, but much of that pain is self-inflicted. Legislating that deliveries only occur at night would be a quick fix that would dramatically ease traffic congestion during the day. That lighter traffic would probably lead to less road rage/stupidity, which would lead to fewer accidents.

But, that’s an easy, smart fix for average New Yorkers that doesn’t pander to business interests. It also doesn’t create an opportunity for the city and state government to screw New Yorkers with another tax, which they’re introducing on all for-hire vehicles fares below 96th Street starting in January 2019, supposedly to supplement the MTA’s budget. Being real, it doesn’t make sense to tax an unrelated service to make up budget shortfalls in the MTA. Being more real, that money will probably just line pockets and by summer of 2019 the MTA will be crying for more cash and raising fares again. Is anyone really surprised, though?