Neighbors say broken concrete, rotting handrails, litter, graffiti, poor lighting ruin staircase
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Ridge Boulevard rests on a hill in Bay Ridge that is so steep, stairs were built instead of roadways to allow people to navigate their way from the boulevard to the next street over, Colonial Road.
These so-called “step streets” are located at a few points along Ridge Boulevard, including 74th Street and 76th Street, and literally take the place of paved roadways at those spots.
To get from Ridge Boulevard to Colonial Road on 76th Street, for example, a pedestrian must navigate down 60 concrete steps.
Residents of 76th Street said the staircase, which falls under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) because it is considered part of a city street, is in poor condition and badly in need of repair.
“The stairs are cracked and are dangerously eroding to the point that the support rods are exposed. And the railing is missing from a section of the stairs. There is no light to illuminate the stairs at night. The street lights at the top and bottom are ineffective,” Bert Halliday, a local resident, told the Brooklyn Eagle.
In addition to the pedestrian hazard created by the poor condition of the stairs, the lack of lighting has encouraged littering, vandalism and drug use, according to Halliday. “Kids hang out on the steps at night,” he told the Eagle.
Not wanting to be one who just sits back and complains about a situation, Halliday, a senior vice president of the HSA Group at Merrill Lynch, decided to do something.
On April 26, he organized a group of more than 30 volunteers and led a cleanup of the steps. “When we cleaned the area, it was filled with beer bottles and small plastic bags used to hold drugs,” he said. There was so much litter, “we ran out of plastic bags,” he said. The volunteers tried to wipe away graffiti that was painted on one of the landings but were unable to get it off.
Halliday said he organized the clean-up as a tribute to his late son, Ryan Halliday, who died of leukemia in February at the age of 22. “Ryan was a do-er. He had such an impact on people. I wanted to take a pro-active approach in his name,” Halliday said.
Halliday, who has reached out to Community Board 10 and to elected officials abut the steps, said he and his neighbors would like to see the stairs repaired and for new lighting to be installed as a safety measure.
“A lot of people use the stairs, not just pedestrians. People use the staircase for exercise,” Halliday said. “The city has been neglecting the stairs. The potential danger for individuals, that includes the elderly, as well as the potential liability to the city, should make this continued neglect unacceptable to our elected officials. I would like to believe that there could be found the small amount of money necessary to repair and improve the condition of those stairs but to date nothing has been done.”
Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, who helped Halliday organize the April 26 clean-up, said the board is also concerned about condition of the 76th Street steps.
“The restoration of the 76th Step Street is listed on the top (It is #10) of our Capital Priority List submitted to the New York City Department of Transportation,” Beckmann wrote in an email to the Eagle. The Capital Priority List is submitted by community boards to city agencies each year.
The steps were refurbished several years ago as part of a DOT capital improvement project, according to Beckmann. But the city needs to take another look at it, she said.
“The 76th Street Step Street at the dead end is in very poor condition. The steps are broken and pose a hazard to residents. The grassy areas on the side of the steps are always overgrown,” Beckmann wrote.
“We applaud the efforts of Bert Halliday highlighting the dire need for immediate repair work and complete restoration,” she added.
State Sen. Marty Golden, Councilman Vincent Gentile and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis have all written to Brooklyn Transportation Commissioner Joseph Palmieri to request action.
DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said the agency pays a great deal of attention to the steps.
“DOT continues to monitor and maintain step streets across the city, including 76th Street in Bay Ridge. The agency has performed basic cleaning here twice a week since March, and it is scheduled for periodic maintenance later this year. The agency will continue to address requests from local stakeholders on this location and to ensure the street remains safe and accessible,” he wrote in an email to the Eagle.