Tuesday, February 1, 2011

DOTE recommends keeping Westwood walkway open

Cincinnati's Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) is recommending against the closure of the pedestrian walkway between Werk Road and Pickbury Drive in Westwood.

A study of the walkway was initiated last year following a communication to Mayor Mark Mallory and members of City Council by Westwood resident Jonathan Breen, pushing for closure of the walkway due to an increase in neighborhood nuisances.

"We fell in love with old homes and tree lined streets and decided to buy our first home in the City of Cincinnati," Breen said.

But in the past three years, he said that his car has been rummaged through several times, there is an increase of litter in his yard, and he has witnessed drug dealing and public urination. Noise from non-residents has become unbearable.

To Breen, the walkway has become "a conduit for crime and miscreants onto what was once a quiet street".

"Obviously, we are no longer enamored with our neighborhood," he said. "The quality of life is in serious decline and we are beginning to no longer feel safe. We are seriously contemplating moving out of the city."

Study conducted

One of nearly 400 sets of public steps in the City of Cincinnati, the walkway was built as part of the Mayfield subdivision in 1949, and improved with rebuilt steps and modular block retaining walls in 1995.

In April 2010, signs were posted at both ends of the 220-foot walkway directing neighborhood residents to give their input into whether they wanted the steps to remain open or close.

Between April and November 2010, DOTE received 48 phone calls, 26 of which were in favor of closure.

In October 2010, 700 postcards were mailed to local property and business owners. Seventy-eight were returned, 48 of which were in favor of closure.

Many in favor of keeping the walkway open cited easy access to the #6 and #39 Metro buses.

The Westwood Civic Association voted 9-6 in favor of the closure at its May 18, 2010 meeting.

Walkway used by residents

In a recent report to City Council, DOTE said that the results of its study were not decisive. The four adjacent property owners were split 50/50.

"It is the Administration's opinion that the stairway is being used by residents in the neighborhood," DOTE said.

If City Council votes to keep the walkway open, DOTE recommends that the Department of Public Services work with Pickbury Drive property owners on clearing the overgrown vegetation.

If it votes for closure, the City would be required to remove the walkway, handrail and steps, close off the opening with a modular block wall, and remove the walkway's street light. The right-of-way then would be sold to the adjacent property owners.

Previous reading on BC:
Keys Crescent: City must do more to keep 'undesirables' off Collins Avenue steps (10/3/08)
Google mashup identifies Cincinnati's public steps (2/26/08)