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One-way street has Bridgeport community at odds

December 28, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — It was just the installation of a couple of new traffic signs.

But the recent conversion of Yaremich Drive, off of Reservoir Avenue, to one-way despite opposition from the city’s traffic engineer has left the neighborhood and its community leaders bitterly divided.

Supporters say the change made a narrow, busy street safer for those living on it, including some blind and deaf children, senior citizens, and students being dropped off by school buses.

Critics claim the one-way designation is hazardous, was withheld from the non-politically connected until approved, and that it hurts a doctor’s office and a community garden.

Frustrations came to a head during the public speaking portion of the Dec. 17 City Council meeting. Although the Police Commission ultimately authorized the one-way designation, about 20 people took aim at Councilwoman Rosalina Roman-Christy, a Yaremich Drive resident who had lobbied for the direction restriction.

Judith Edwards, head of a Reservoir Avenue neighborhood revitalization group, told Roman-Christy and her council colleagues that “decisions were made for our neighborhood without our input or consent.”

Edwards lives a few blocks away on Sylvan Avenue. Steve Nelson, a Democratic leader in the city who lives on Yaremich Drive, defended Roman-Christy and called her critics “outsiders.”

“We have a blind kid that lives on Yaremich Drive. We have a deaf kid,” Nelson told the council. “They’re talking about convenience. We live there. That’s our street.”

While the one-way signs were installed as of early December, Dan Roach, chairman of the Police Commission, said in an interview last week that group may reconsider the decision at its January meeting.

“Everything is on the table,” Roach said. “There’s definitely two sides to this issue.”

My way or the...

Yaremich Drive is off of Reservoir Avenue behind the Trumbull Gardens public housing complex. The one-way designation means cars can no longer turn from Reservoir onto Yaremich. Instead, drivers now must head down Soundview Avenue and enter Yaremich from the opposite end.

Nelson and Roman-Christy, in separate interviews, said Yaremich residents have for years wanted to make their street one-way to combat speeding and problems with drug dealing and other crime spilling over from Trumbull Gardens.

In June, however, Traffic Engineer Pawel Papazachariu recommended in a letter to the Police Commission recommended against the one-way conversion. Papazachariu wrote that Yaremich “carries minimal traffic during the day and does not carry cut-thru traffic” and “converting to one-way operation will increase vehicle speeds (and) volume of traffic along Soundview Avenue.”

Initially the Police Commission, according to meeting minutes, agreed with the traffic engineer and in July denied making Yaremich one way. Roman-Christy asked commission members to reconsider, and they approved the direction change in August, with the one-way signs installed by December.

Roach said last week that the change was supported by Fire Marshal Henry Polite and that the Police Commission was sympathetic to the public safety issues voiced by Yaremich residents.

Roman-Christy said she mentioned the effort to make Yaremich one-way at a meeting of Edward’s neighborhood revitalization group “way back at the beginning” of the process. Edwards, who has run that organization since last May, said in an interview that never happened during her watch, and that her predecessor also was never approached.

“We caught her in a lie,” Edwards said. “This is a big lie.”

Alma Maya, a mayoral aide who lives in the Reservoir Avenue area, is City Hall’s liaison with Bridgeport’s various neighborhood revitalization groups. Maya said she also had been unaware of the change to Yaremich.

Ulterior motives?

Dr. Dennis Williams operates Bridgeport Family Health at 1381 Reservoir Ave., at the intersection with Yaremich Drive. He has a small parking lot off of Yaremich.

In a letter to Hearst Connecticut Media in early December, Williams alleged the city “gave preferential treatment” to Roman-Christy “without any community input or notice.” Noting the traffic engineering report, Williams wrote that besides making Yaremich less safe, the change caused problems with parking and office access for his patients.

Roman-Christy said Williams has never bothered to engage his neighbors until now.

Edwards and Maya believe the one-way street is an attack on the Reservoir Avenue community garden, located on the other side of Yaremich from Williams’ medical practice. The garden has for several years leased its property from the city and, like Williams, has parking spaces along Yaremich that were quickly accessible from Reservoir Avenue.

“I buy stuff there all the time,” Maya said. “This is going to hurt the farm and that upsets me. We need that farm.”

Nelson and Roman-Christy admitted they are not fans of the farm. Both described the site as “an eyesore” and argued the land it occupies was intended for a never-built library. But both denied that making Yaremich Drive one-way was an attack on the farm.

Roman-Christy said she is “pretty confident” the Police Commission will stick with the one-way designation for “public safety.”

“And furthermore, I went through the process,” she said.

But Edwards said, “I think we have a chance of reversing it because of the false information (Roman-Christy) gave.”

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