This past week the New York State Department of Transportation closed the Parkway Road Bridge over the Bronx River that is partially in the Village of Bronxville as well as the City of Yonkers.
The village first learned about the gradual deterioration of the bridge in June of 2011 and immediately contacted our Town of Eastchester government.
The reason we petitioned our town to address and remediate the structural problem is because of a controlling New York state law passed in 1909. According to Section 6-604 Care of Bridges, villages are only in charge of bridges therein if constructed prior to 1909 (the date of passage of the law). The bridge in question was constructed in 1952 by the state of New York. In all other cases, “every public bridge within a village shall be under the control of the superintendents of highways of the town in which the bridge is wholly or partially situated … and the expense of constructing and repairing such bridge and the approaches thereto is a town charge, unless the village assumes the whole or part of such expense.”
Our legal counsel advises us that the only way a village can assume responsibility for a bridge within its boundaries is by the adoption of a resolution subject to a permissive referendum pursuant to village Law Section 6-604.
To that end, we searched all of our village records and no such resolution exists re: Parkway Road bridge. Using the Freedom of Information Law, we petitioned the New York State Department of Transportation to search their files, knowing that if such a document existed, it would have to be on record with them as well. They, too, found no record. The Town of Eastchester has been unable to produce any documents as well. We did our due diligence because if such a resolution was agreed to by our predecessors, we would most certainly honor our obligation to repair the bridge. Currently we sweep and plow all roads in the village including the Metro-North bridge and Parkway Road bridge as a safety precaution. Metro-North would concur that this is not an indice of ownership.
Our Town of Eastchester government is disputing their responsibility which we alerted them to on March 28, 2012. They are basing their objection for responsibility on documents in the possession of NYSDOT that called the bridge the Bronxville Bridge and state Bronxville is responsible for the maintenance of the bridge. However, notes on maps cannot trump the clear requirement of village Law Section 6-604. Again, net-net no one can assign the village responsibility for the bridge based on what an anonymous bureaucrat writes on a document without an official action by the Bronxville Board of Trustees in the form of a written resolution.
The village has formally demanded that the Town of Eastchester take immediate steps pursuant to its obligations under State Law Section 6-604 to perform the necessary repairs. The City of Yonkers also bears joint legal responsibility with Eastchester as one half of the bridge is on city property. If the town fails to take the required action, the trustees and I have directed village counsel to take all appropriate legal steps to enforce the law. This is not something the trustees and I chose to do lightly and it is with true disappointment that this disagreement with what should be our partner in government has risen to this level.
This dispute with our town government comes at a particularly inopportune time as village residents in significant numbers are coming forward to ask what town services they receive for our currently yearly town tax obligation of $1.2 million, exclusive of fire protection which costs the village taxpayers another $4.9 million annually. In a past column in response to repeated requests from villagers, I researched how we might disengage from the town and with it, the $1.2 million yearly town property tax obligation. As a recap, Bronxville can only become a separate entity if a majority of the town’s citizens voted for the separation via a special referendum. Given our large yearly contribution to the Eastchester town budget, logic says the chances for this are virtually nil.
I continue to be hopeful that this disagreement can be solved through collegial conversation, but we will continue on a parallel legal track until fair resolution is achieved, and the bridge is made once again safe for vehicular traffic.