Roads & Rails

Why is the Bronx River Parkway so spooky?



Q: Why are the street lights on the Bronx River Parkway always off? It is dark, curvy, and dangerous.
Julie Baker, Scarsdale

A: Are you saying that our county is not nearly as enlightened as it should be? We took a drive through all 13 miles of the nation’s first parkway and found that the darkness isn’t caused by lights being off but by lights not existing in the first place. The only exception are the 21 street lights installed this past October on the northern-most tip of the Parkway, which will be illuminated fairly soon. Otherwise, most of the lights that exist are only at intersections. And we couldn’t help noticing, the Parkway really is quite spooky at night.

Donna Greene at the Westchester County Communications Department says that the county didn’t just forget to light the Parkway but decided a few years ago that lighting intersections, installing various reflectors, and improving pavement markings to make them more reflective in wet weather would achieve the “desired level of roadway illumination and safety” at a more cost-effective rate than “replacing the antiquated street lighting system on the entire parkway at a cost of some ten million dollars.” Plus the county wanted to keep the Parkway looking as it did originally. Indeed, all new light poles installed mimicked the original lights from 1925. Greene notes that “one original non-illuminated pole remains,” on the Ardsley Road Southbound Entrance Ramp.

Q: What do some Metro-North cars have names on them while others don’t? Plus, why are the older New Haven Line cars red, and the older Hudson Line cars blue, just like the signs at the stations on each respective line, but the Hudson Line cars are not green like the signs at the stations on that line?
—Lynn Hudson, White Plains

A: We are big fans of railroads (we still have a set of Lionel ‘O-Scale’ tracks and trains in our back room) and huge fans of Metro-North. We love that their trains are on time nearly 98 percent of the time. (‘On time’ to MNR means within roughly six minutes of schedule; feel free to use that statistic next time you’re a few minutes late for work.) And we totally appreciate the help provided to us by Press Secretary Marjorie Anders who sent us copies of the Mileposts newsletter from 1985 when the trains were named. From it we learned that the names came about as a result of a contest the railroad held upon the arrival of the then state-of-the-art Bombardier Comet III train car, which, because it did not have a middle door, had a large swath of empty space in the middle to fill. (The trains we currently have include a middle door—thus, no space for names.) The railroad held two contests, in 1985 and in 1990. Some of our favorite choices: ‘Storm King,’ ‘Senesqua Flyer,’ and ‘Shad Run.’

As for your question about the different car colors: many of the cars originally used by Metro-North were owned by its predominant predecessor, the New York Central Railroad. Its colors were red and blue. Only certain cars could be used on the New Haven Line, so those cars were painted red. However, the other cars could be used by both the Harlem and Hudson River Lines. A car might be on one line one day and the other the next, so a single-color scheme made sense. And that color was blue, the color designated for the MTA’s favorite son—the Harlem Line.

Got any curiosities about our county? Don’t keep ’em to yourself. Email them to us at edit@westchestermagazine.com, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll finally get a straight (or not-so-straight) answer right here.

Tell Westchester

Sometimes our wiki-county knows more than we do; and, being the type-A residents you are, you let us know it. So welcome to “Tell Westchester,” your chance to tell us when you’re ticked about an answer. Don’t worry, we can take it.

In our December 2009 issue, we were asked what the blue cube near the Glenwood train station in Yonkers was and what was to become of it. We answered that it “recently was considered as a site for a movie studio owned by Robert De Niro and Miramax,” but since “that’s not happening,” the cube is “going to be demolished.”

Well, don’t pack up your high-def cameras and stage lighting just yet. Paul W. Adler, managing director of Rand Commercial Services in White Plains, has a cube to sell and we may have inadvertently killed his asking price. Adler tells us that, from 1999 to 2005, the cube was used as a home for the “Hudson River Stage,” a movie company jointly owned by De Niro, Harvey Weinstein, Miramax, and Tribeca Productions. (The Weinstein Company has indicated that based on its records it believes this to be correct.) Adler says movies such as Kate and Leopold, The Stepford Wives, and Zoolander used the stage for production. However, the cube and the land around it were sold in 2005 and are no longer owned by Balfour Beatty as we had thought. The studio shut down soon after the sale. But the 10-story high cube will be ready for re-use by the end of the year.

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