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Upper West Sider Arrested For Attempt to Block DOT Open Street Project

She gave up her freedom for a parking space. 

3:04 PM EDT on October 16, 2023

Photo: Peter Frishauf|

Police arrest Maxine DeSeta for seeking to prevent DOT workers from completing a street improvement project.

She gave up her freedom for a parking space. 

A well-known opponent of the city’s plans to transform a portion of West 103rd Street into a safe haven for pedestrians was arrested on Monday after she attempted to prevent the Department of Transportation from doing work on the block.

A video clip showed NYPD handcuffing Maxine DeSeta just before 9 a.m. at Broadway and 103rd Street as DOT staffers began work on the redesign, which aims to calm traffic and improve pedestrian safety and user experience by using large planters and other changes to narrow the roadway.

DOT's work on the block has the support of much of the community and the local community board, leaving DeSeta to wage her lonely war. On Monday, she screamed profanities at DOT staff while lugging around a shopping cart filled with posters demanding the city “Stop Open Streets," the footage shows.

“Fuck you,” DeSeta, 83, shouted in the clip at one passerby, who appeared to be supportive of the open street and called her “an idiot" in response.

Cops who initially tried to calm the tension ultimately hauled DeSeta away in handcuffs, the video showed.

A phalanx of cops protected DOT workers as they made improvements to W. 103rd Street on Monday. The woman in the center, with her dog and shopping cart full of protest signs, was arrested.Photo: Peter Frishauf

Monday's "action" was not the first time DeSeta has caused commotion.

The Upper West Sider was similarly vocal over the summer during what was supposed to be a mediation session hosted by the New York Peace Institute. The event turned into a volatile discussion in which critics angrily bemoaned the loss of parking on the block. DeSeta likened advocates of the street redesign to the National Rifle Association in her comments at that meeting.

The DOT said there will be a net removal of 13 parking spaces as part of the shared-street redesign on 103rd Street, but ParktoPark103, which is advocating for the changes between Central and Riverside parks, said that in fact just one parking space will be repurposed in total, once construction of a building in the area is completed.

One of redesign's centerpieces will be park-let wrapping around the block just outside of the Marseille, a 134-unit senior residence at the corner of Broadway and 103rd Street. 

A 30-year resident of the Marseille told Streetsblog over the summer that he appreciated the camaraderie grown out of having more public space for community events — and that it would be a shame if that were reclaimed for cars.

"I like it. They play music out here, it's cute. I'd take people over vehicles any day," said Leon, who declined to provide his last name.

DOT working outside of the Marseille on 103rd Street on Monday morning. Photo: Peter Frishauf

The NYPD as of Monday afternoon had no confirmation of the arrest. Streetsblog's attempts to reach DeSeta were unsuccessful. 

Another mediation session is scheduled for Oct. 30, according to the New York Peace Institute.

This is a breaking story and will be updated if the NYPD provides basic information. The Department of Transportation also did not respond.

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