Fordham Plaza Officially Open to Public


After a three year construction project, Fordham Plaza is almost complete. Andrea Garcia/The Fordham Ram

By Maliha Gul

After a three year construction project, Fordham Plaza is almost complete. Andrea Garcia/The Fordham Ram

After a three year construction project, Fordham Plaza is almost complete. Andrea Garcia/The Fordham Ram

The three-year reconstruction project of Fordham Plaza is finally coming to a close. The new space not only serves as a more efficient transportation hub, but it also boasts a greener, more accessible, space designed with Bronxites in mind. The plaza, located across from Fordham’s Third Avenue entrance, is also a short distance from campus.

Though some construction continues in parts of the plaza and in the Metro-North station, city officials, as well as officials from the Department of Transportation, officially opened the new plaza to the public with a ribbon cutting ceremony that took place on Jan. 20, only one day after the Spring 2016 semester began at Fordham University.

Previously, the plaza and the bus pathways that passed through it posed danger to pedestrians and visitors of the plaza. Slow traffic on Fordham Road encouraged jaywalking, and the busy intersection at Fordham Road and Webster Avenue, with its six lane traffic was also a threat to the safety of the 80,000 pedestrians that frequent the Fordham shopping district every day.

Construction began in 2013, and the three-year project broke down all existing structures at the plaza, including Pronto Pizza, popular with Fordham students due not only to its location, but also its $1 pizza. The existing ‘marketplace’ section has been demolished and replaced with plaza seating, and an upcoming cafe where the pizza place once stood.
The bus routes that once cut through the plaza have been relocated into a loop, creating a contiguous plaza area. Furthermore, in line with the city’s commitment to incorporate principles of sustainability in all new developments, the new plaza replaces concrete with grass and trees that provide shade and create a more park-like feel for its visitors.

The project, developed through a partnership between the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), cost a total of $34 million and was funded on local, state and federal levels.
Due to the nature of the project, which sought to improve traffic and pedestrian safety, efficiently organize the 12 city buses that pass through the plaza and provide a space for the people of the neighborhood to relax, it was able to garner support from different places.

The reconstruction project was originally one of the initiatives in the PlaNYC 2030 plan of public initiatives announced in 2007 by then-mayor Bloomberg, which called for increased lighting and pedestrian safety in the plaza, as well as a restructuring of the 12 bus routes that traveled through it.

The project was also part of the NYC Plaza Program, which aims to increase the availability of quality open spaces to New Yorkers, especially in neighborhoods which qualify as low income, by transforming underused streets into public spaces. The project is also in line with the New York City Vision Zero initiative pushed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014, which sought to reduce pedestrian and traffic fatalities and make the streets of New York City safer.

The plaza is placed where thousands of pedestrians, cars, buses and trains meet on Fordham Road between Webster and Third Ave, and the Fordham Road Metro North station is the fourth busiest stop within the entire Metro-North system. Thousands of students from both Fordham University and the Roosevelt Educational Campus across from it contribute to the daily hustle and bustle around Fordham Plaza. The plaza sits at the end of the Fordham shopping district, which spans from Jerome Avenue and the 4 train station all the way to Webster and is not only the largest shopping strip in the Bronx, but also the third largest in New York City.

Joe Rapp, FCRH ’17, who is a commuter Assistant, has watched the construction progress during his years at Fordham. “The new plaza looks nice, but I haven’t seen it fully functional yet,” said Rapp, who commutes from Manhattan.
Though Rapp is not so sure about whether the changes will significantly decrease traffic or have a noticeable effect on pedestrian crossing, he is optimistic about the new plaza.

“Hopefully, the pedestrian friendly space will be a positive impact on the community,” he said.

Other students feel that the snowstorm, which took place only a few days after the ribbon cutting ceremony, diverted attention from the new plaza.

“The blizzard skewed any noticeable changes,” said Channprit Singh, GSB ’17, who commutes from Parkchester, Bronx. “I haven’t noticed anything different about pedestrian crossings due to people still jaywalking.”

Jaywalking on Fordham Road, according to the Fordham Plaza concept plan, mostly occurs as pedestrians cross the street directly from the front of the plaza to the Metro-North entrance on the other side, despite the fact that there is a pedestrian crossing about two or three meters away.

Singh, who has lived in the Bronx his whole life, spoke positively about new pedestrian crossings in his neighborhood. However, he was less enthusiastic about the new plaza.

“Over a decade ago, the plaza used to be a marketplace with booths everywhere,” he said. “That has long been gone and the Plaza has since become a bland, barren block.”
When asked if they plan on going to the new plaza when the snow melts and the weather becomes more favorable, Rapp is all for it. “I used to stop by the old plaza for pizza,” he said. “I will likely travel to the new plaza as well.”

As for Singh, he is not so certain, but is keeping an open mind. “I have no incentive to go to the new plaza,” he said. “If that changes, sure.”

“It certainly isn’t so much of an eyesore as it used to be,” added Rapp.
Other students, like Frairee de la Fuente, FCRH ’17, who is an Resident Assistant for Campbell Hall, prefer the new plaza. “There’s definitely a big and positive change to the new plaza,” she said. “The design is sleek and beautiful and it brings a lot of beauty to the area.”

The changes in pedestrian safety have not been lost on others. “The pedestrian lanes are definitely safer and more accessible,” said Jamie Toto, FCRH ’16.
Andrew Julian, FCRH ’16, who graduates this year, said he does most of his grocery shopping near the plaza, and that he feels safer crossing the street since the construction.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “I think what they did is absolutely an improvement and I intend to enjoy the area for the rest of my time at Fordham.”
Other students would like to see the Fordham Plaza as a place to escape the hustle and bustle of the immediate Fordham area.

“I hope that the new plaza will contain more space for pedestrians, residents, and students like myself,” said Preetika Govil, FCRH ’17. “It would be nice to have more open space without being surrounded constantly by traffic and bustling pedestrians.”