Here’s a dispatch from one of New York’s little-known pedestrian-only streets. Residents of Inwood may see a decade of lobbying pay off over the next year, as the city last week announced the upcoming rehabilitation of the hazardous 215th Step-Street, a block-long staircase connecting Broadway to residential blocks at the northern tip of the neighborhood, along with Isham Park and Inwood Hill Park.
Hilly Northern Manhattan is dotted with step-streets in varying stages of repair, as are the Bronx and areas of Staten Island and Brooklyn. As explained by Forgotten New York, step-streets "were placed on hills that were too steep to build a road, yet in a rare concession to pedestrians, it was determined to allow them access to the streets denied to motor transportation."
Step-streets are maintained by DOT. According to Mark Levine, chair of Community Board 12’s Traffic and Transportation Committee (and likely challenger to Denny Farrell for Robert Jackson’s term-limited City Council seat), Northern Manhattanites have been asking the city to rebuild the 215th staircase since at least 1999. Writes Levine on his blog:
The stairs have crumbled and cracked with age. Landings
have poor drainage and routinely flood, creating hazardous conditions
which only worsen in winter when the pools of water turn to ice. Many of the pre-WWII era lamps are broken, leaving stretches of the steps in darkness at night. Hand railings are only partially usable.
Calls for repairs were renewed last year when an Inwood woman tripped on a hole in the stairs, cutting her legs and face. She was carried away by ambulance.
On Monday, August 18, DOT officials joined Assembly Member Adriano Espaillat at the foot of the staircase to announce the reconstruction project, which Espaillat’s office tells Streetsblog will be completed next year — though Levine notes a similar photo op took place in 2005.
Photo: Brad Aaron